What about Peace?

Candles glow, the Advent wreath is full of light, week 4 has arrived… time for us to focus on “PEACE”.

Ultimately that’s the idea behind our search for faith. To find ‘rest for our souls. To relax our clenched hearts… to wonder again. To be secure… to feel safe. 

Our lives often don’t feel balanced…tipping from one extreme to another. Too busy, too empty… too full. We search to find meaning in our wandering, to discover some secret key to unlock all the pain and mystery of our past mistakes, our current dilemmas… future fears! A key to help us make sense of things. It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-christmas-movies-2394010-1024-768

Christmas can be a wonderful time to reconsider our story. To re-imagine life as it was meant to be as we would want it to be. No illness, no shame… no worry and no pain. Full of Joy and promise, we long for things to change. We hoped for more than we can see…

Peace is that most elusive goal. A destination too far to discover. Yet we yearn.

PEACE... not a goal we can work to attain. 

PEACE... too far away for us to find. 

PEACE... uncertain, we’re too afraid to feel.

Christians… have a promise that transcends this life, this world.. even us. A promise of PEACE. Not a hope that we can grasp or learn, but a belief that our Prince of PEACE will come for us. That His PEACE can become our own. Literally infusing us with something ‘other’. Something we can’t understand or fully describe. PEACE in the middle of all our chaos.

PEACE in a world gone mad… PEACE in our marriages, PEACE in our families, PEACE at work. PEACE in our hearts and PEACE at home. candle-hand-blue

Christmas reminds us of the promise of PEACE. A promise that cannot be found anywhere else. It’s essential that we remember…CHRIST ALONE “IS” our PEACE!  A truth that changes everything if we let it soak in. 

Merry Christmas dear friend!

Micah 5:2-5 (ESV) – Source BibleGateway.com 

2 “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
    one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
    from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time
    when she who is in labor has given birth;
then the rest of his brothers shall return
    to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
    to the ends of the earth.
And he shall be their peace.”

Joy in waiting… Christmas on pause

Waiting is so odd to us.

We’re instant society folks… living in a push button culture. We find what we want in minutes, not hours. Days of delay, a totally foreign concept. We linger little. Time is tight.

Schedules are crammed full, social Holiday parties, church Christmas specials, school choir events, rushed shopping, shipping, spending… the pace of life pushing… squeezing.

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Couple with Christmas shopping

Waiting is not even an option anymore. We have to sprint to stay ahead of the freight train that is our life…endlessly bearing down on us. Exhausted and numb, we scratch at the shimmering screens that surround us. Looking, hoping to find the spark of our old life to ignite some Christmas spirit.

Tired of too many things… we need something more. 

We’re longing to find the reason for rushing, the purpose behind the presents. Christmas shouldn’t be so thin and harsh. Whatever happened to the Joy of it all?

Where did the thrill of the anticipation, the waiting to discover… the wonder each gift reveals.

Slow the show mom and dad. 

Sit down.

Bake.

Watch TV with your kids.

Drive the neighborhoods for Christmas lights.

Go make something crafty for Aunt Bev 🙂

This season comes once each year. It’s not like the other weeks and days we ram through. This is important. Priceless. Take a deep breath… say “NO” to something. Maybe four or five ‘somethings’,  loose a few ‘ extra’ obligations this Christmas. 

Jesus-Mary-Joseph-1Lets remember the big picture? Christ came… Christ is coming… Christ will come again. Faith flickers in our fatigue… now could be a good time to rest and refresh our hearts. Christmas break is coming. An opportunity to slow down enough to enjoy the beautiful and fleeting moments. Resist the temptation to fill every moment of your holiday. Leave large spaces of unscheduled time available for family… oh and mute your smartphones.

The rewards of unplugging are enormous… including the ultimate Christmas gift for a family… your being ‘present’. 

Merry Christmas from RTP and Pastor B.

 

Christian Tradition… ADVENT

Advent is an ancient Christian tradition of intentionally ‘waiting‘ and ‘looking’ for God’s coming. As early as the 4th century, Christian converts were preparing for Christ’s return. Over a period of four weeks, starting in late November they would fast and pray in an earnest attempt to renew their hearts and minds for Christ’s coming.

This has evolved into a modern day tradition of lighting four candles (Hope / Love / Joy / Peace)  over four weeks, each candle representing a specific theme and truth about Christ. We anticipate the arrival of Christmas and by parallel the birth of Christ… or “Advent”. But we also should consider the original intent of our ancient Church fathers who sincerely believed that Christ was about to return to earth.

Advent Candles

Advent Candles

So as millions of Christian families light their advent candles or hang their Advent wreaths this Christmas season… consider the possibility that we are anticipating more than a baby’s birth, but a King’s return to earth!

For families looking to re-emphasize the deeper meaning of Christ-Mass, ADVENT is a wonderful way to keep the reason for the season fresh and real for our kids. Simple and easy to do… Advent candles allow for families of faith to ponder the virtues of Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace… a time to reflect on our amazing heritage.

Merry Christmas from Road Trip Parenting! 

PS – To find out more about the history of Advent or to start your own family tradition – check out Ann Voskamp’s book “One Thousand Gifts” or the free onlineAWANA Advent Devotional!

For those feeling left behind this Christmas!

OBSCURE + INSIGNIFICANT

Read Luke 2:1–7.

In a world where pop culture demands fame for significance, Luke’s narrative of the Christ child seems out of place. Each Christmas, I feel a little odd as I think about this classic Advent passage in Chapter 2. How strange to our modern sensibilities it is. I can’t help but remember the royal baby watch in England. A worldwide media sensation with billions of obsessed fans watched as Prince William and Kate prepared for their son to be born. Every network, newspaper, and radio station around the globe waited desperately for news of his arrival.

flowers-kid.com

flowers-kid.com

Why not with Jesus?

How different God’s ways really are from our own. We naturally attach great significance to those born to nobility and wealth, admiring the popular and the famous while ignoring the everyday and common among us. If we had planned things, Jesus would have been born with front-page news coverage and exclusive birth pictures on the cover of People magazine. God’s plan was much less “noticeable.”

His purposes are not tied to outward fame or success and our eternal significance isn’t dependent on the number of social media followers we have. Instead, Luke 2 helps us all slow down and reevaluate our perspectives on what makes for true significance. The very obscurity of this story challenges us to weigh carefully how we measure the importance of others and how we see ourselves.

The backwater town of Bethlehem with its lowly manger scene urges me to marvel once again at the power of God at work in the lives of the seemingly ordinary and insignificant. In all the rush that is the Christmas holiday, I can feel lost, obscure, and insignificant next to the sensational world rushing by.

Mary and Joseph seemed to be apparently ordinary people in the midst of an ordinary and obscure place. Shunned and ignored, they welcomed the birth of THE royal Son without the world even noticing. To not dismiss the ordinary in our world as insignificant is a beautiful reminder each Christmas.

APPLICATION

Reading this passage can be a timely encouragement to remember how God really sees us. Sometimes we can feel overlooked, alone, and insignificant in our “ordinary” lives, questioning if God really knows who we are or what we’re doing as His servants. Like Mary and Joseph, God can seem distant and unconcerned with our lives, but the spiritual reality is much different than we can see or feel in the moment. Write down or journal a life situation that has you feeling “forgotten” by God, then ask Him for renewed understanding of how different His ways are than our own in that specific circumstance.

——————-

For RTP readers, this post was originally written for the 2014 Awana Advent Devotional – and has several distinct age specific applications available for families and couples to enjoy this Christmas.

Merry Christmas – Pastor B.

Finding HOPE again in Advent

Advent is upon us. That ancient Christian tradition of looking for the “coming” Kings arrival is a significant cornerstone to understanding and renewing the Christian context for Christ-Mass in your life.

Week One focuses our hearts and minds on the “HOPE” of Christ’s coming.

Not in a one-dimensional consideration of a Christ child-birth two thousand years ago…but in a multi-dimensional reminder of how Christ has come, is coming now, and will some day physically return to set everything ‘right’. It’s this uniquely Christian truth and its immense implications that can restore our HOPE.

Christmas is more than a single moment of time each year, it’s bigger than that.

Christmas is more than a date to cherish and celebrate and enjoy as family, it’s deeper than that.

Christmas is the truth of God’s love in action. The exclamation point on mankind’s salvation and the intervention of a loving Father to restore His lost sons and daughters.

simplyorthodox.tumblr.com

simplyorthodox.tumblr.com

When we pause long enough to shut out the commercial excess and ever-growing media frenzy of our American cultural obsession with ‘stuff,  we make room for something ‘other to enter our world.

An opportunity to ignore the marketing half-truths that make us uneasy and dis-satisfied with our lives, a chance to remember the truth and restore our HOPE that Christ is still the ultimate cornerstone of  our Christ-Mass.

Parents, friends and families of faith… you know this all already, just a seasonal reminder to not give in to the hype and hysteria of ONLY gathering gifts this year… lets focus anew on the truest expression of HOPE we could ever ask for.

Jesus…. The Christ.

Pastor B.

 

Timing is everything…

Advent reminds us to “look” for Christ’s coming. To remember anew that Christ did come 2013 years ago for mankind, that Christ is coming today for each of our hearts and that Christ will come again someday.

tamedcynic.org

tamedcynic.org

It’s a familiar theme to marvel at the humility and improbability of the long promised King arriving as a child in the middle of the night. It’s iconic for us to visualize that “Holy Night” as a helpless baby is birthed in obscurity, tucked into the low rent district of Bethlehem. We joyfully sing song’s about “little drummer boys” and wonder at the powerful juxtaposition Christmas presents to our modern and enlightened way of thinking.

How odd for us to consider the Christmas story. How it reverses the normal order, how it illustrates weakness and man’s strength must be flipped on their respective heads for a manger to substitute as a palace.  It’s an amazing example of Heaven reaching down to touch earth and how it’s profound simplicity affects our hearts all over again. Each Christmas we are drawn to reflect on the immeasurable power represented by this noble newborn child.

We marvel each December as we rejoice at our hope surviving against all the odds, our child-King living to die for us and in-explicably saving our world from sin and death and shame.

That’s a timeless theme, worthy of every Christmas season’s fullest attention. But this Advent… I’m pondering a slightly different emphasis on the Advent story. A focus on the “timing” of God. A practical reality check, one that forces me to consider again how God’s schedule never – ever – seems even close to matching ours.

latterdaymusings.blogspot.com

latterdaymusings.blogspot.com

How long had the Rabbi’s and Prophet’s pondered and studied and scrutinized the ancient texts to do their best to calculate the coming date of their beloved Messiah ? How many generations had been born and buried and turned to dust before we have the Divine visitation outside Bethlehem? How long was it between the ancient cry of Isaiah the prophet to look for God’s final solution to Israel’s misery, searching every generation for the child-King to be born “Immanuel”?  (Isaiah 7:14)

It was seven hundred years from the writing of the Prophet Isaiah in the 8th century BC until the birth of Christ as described in the scripture. That’s a LONG time to wait on God.

As we consider the unique and amazing ways of God, let’s be sure to remember that His timing for answering our urgent requests for relief may be much slower than we want. Advent is truly a time of reflection, of remembering the perfect plan and the exact timing of God’s redemptive masterpiece in Christ.

Christmas is not only a reset of our human understanding of “HOW” God works among us, but also of “WHEN”. It’s expected then, that like the Hebrew scholars of old, we may find God delaying to answer our prayers… asking us to linger a bit with Him before revealing His promise in our lives.

Advent then becomes not only a reminder of Christ’s coming, but also of God’s master plan and “Perfect Timing” in each and every life situation…especially parenting.

Peace and Grace to you this Christmas season and may we all find renewed patience as parents in this season of expectant “waiting”.

Pastor B.

What’s the big deal about Advent?

Advent time! Seems it comes every year, oh Goodie! Light the candles, get out a funny colored candle wreath and put out some candy…yada yahdah yadda. What’s the big deal about Advent? advent and shopping pic

We’re parents, practical and realistic. Advent really just means more work for us. Kids have to wear their “nicest” clothes, and we HAVE TO get out of bed for four weeks in a row to make the Sunday morning church services that comprise Advent.  Extra shopping, extra cleaning, ironing and less private time for you. Advent season really can be such a huge bother.

True.

On the other hand, it’s an enduring tradition that actually goes back as far as Christmas itself, in fact further. It seems that prophets and holy ones as far back as Ruth,Micah and Isaiah all described the coming of a “Christ” or a savior for mankind, the “Messiah”.

saviorsite.com

saviorsite.com

Their prophetic words, written in ancient text’s thousands of years before the actual birth of the one we call Jesus, shows the historic scope and awe around Advent. For thousands of years, millions of people were anxiously awaiting His coming…hopeful for true change.

Not so much today.

We get used to the marketing pageantry and “over-the-top” Christmas services and LED light displays. Advent is well… a bit stale these days…overshadowed by the things we do instead of the reason we do them for.

Advent is as big and meaningful as you want it to be. If life is pretty safe for us right now…well Advent may get kinda pushed back a bit. If life is scaring the bejeepers out of us, Advent might be growing in its importance. How much do we think we need to be visited by the Messiah, that is the Advent question.

Advent really can renew our Hopes if we let it.

Hope that things in our lives can change. And maybe… the promises of Jesus can really come true for us. The promise to forgive us of our failures and to revive our almost dead-end-lives. To give us a future with purpose and a safe path to walk in.  

What’s Advent going to mean to you this year?

Is it as simple as taking one more chance to reconcile with your estranged and hormonally imbalanced teenager or lighting up that cooling passion you once used to call your marriage?  Is it risking the effort to reconnect with someone who really offended us and has maybe been forced out of our lives prematurely?

Advent - Hope

Advent – Hope

How about actually talking with that super annoying person at Church? Maybe taking the extra moment to wave back as you pass by your nosy neighbor. What about forgiving the judgmental-snobby and oh so hypocritical click of popular moms who always seem to see you at your worst and whisper behind your back?

Advent means…Jesus kept his promise. He came. Advent reminds us that not only did He come once, but He promises to keep coming back for each of us. He promises to keep forgiving, to keep loving and to keep saving us from ourselves…

What if we risked more this Christmas. Stretching out just a bit beyond our comfort zone to find ways to touch those who really do need to receive our forgiveness.

To take the risk of loving those who are “unlovely” in our lives and allowing people we hardly know to inconvenience us with their needs. That’s pretty simple and practical stuff,  and its a whole lot more meaningful than a maxed out Kohl’s charge card and a month of daily migraines.

Advent is here, let’s think about how we can celebrate it brand new, this year.

Merry Christmas!!!

Pastor Brad.