Advent – Peace

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Bill McKibben said:

“Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when you’re running yourself”

Take some time, stop, listen, let God speak to you in the peace. Amen

 

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Advent Hope

Have you written your list for Christmas?

What are you hoping for? Is it a specific gift? Or is it an enjoyable time with friends and family? Maybe it’s decent TV? Maybe a time of peace in the house?

The Church has now entered Advent. This is a time of preparation, not really the physicality of putting the decorations up, and buying and wrapping the presents but more about preparing our hearts and minds for the coming of Jesus. After all, Jesus is the reason for the season.

Each week in advent focuses on different parts of that preparation, and this week we are focussing on hope. Saint Augustine said

“Christmas is fast approaching. And now that Christ has aroused our seasonal expectations, he’ll soon fulfill them all!”

Throughout the Old Testament promises are made about the saviour that will be coming, it is a collection of stories of hope. As Christians we are able to look back and see those promises fulfilled. If those promises can be fulfilled then we can have a certain hope that all promises from God will be fulfilled. This is not the same as hoping that we will get everything on our list, or that we will have a nice time with family over the holidays, this is a hope that gives us confidence and strength. In the Psalms it says

“We wait in hope for the Lord; he is our help and our shield. In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord, even as we put our hope in you.”

How do you feel when someone makes you a promise and they keep it? How do you feel next time they make you a promise? That is what it can be like for Christians all the time as they hope in God.

So how can we use this to help us prepare for Jesus? Remind yourself of the promises given by God… that’s what Jesus has come to fulfil.

Prayer Thank you God that you have kept preparing us for Jesus, and continue to prepare for his return. Help us to prepare our hearts and minds in this season to welcome the Lord. Amen

Challenge: take some time each day to find promises of God from the Old Testament and make a note of the hope they bring to you

Sport

What part does sport play in your life? Do you enjoy playing? Do you prefer watching? Do you get an allergic reaction when the idea of sport is mentioned?

As we approach Advent sport is the final area that we will be looking at in our series of how different topics link with faith.

You may think it’s difficult to link these two but actually it’s possibly easier than many other subject areas, and is possibly one that I’ve seen people link more than other areas. It is also something that we can learn a lot from even if we don’t find sport that enticing ourselves.

Sport is something that helps you, as a participant, to start thinking about yourself holistically. Although you could just play a game in the playground, if you really want to improve at a sport you have to practice, you have to think about what you’re eating, you have to think about how much rest you are getting, you have to think about what other exercise you are getting. Our thought for the week comes from Jillian Michaels and it says

“It’s not about perfect. Its about effort. And when you bring that effort, every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change occurs”

Although this quote is about sport, it could easily be applied to anything that we try to get better at in our lives. We shouldn’t be trying to be perfect but we will only change if we put in the effort everyday. Sport, music, art, craft, friendships, and even our relationship with God.

However, we also need to be careful, what is it that is the most important in our life? We can allow these things to become our priority and suddenly they take over our lives. It is important, not just with sport, but that we regularly take stock of our priorities in life and ensure that there is a balance of all aspects. An extreme example here could be Eric Liddell who was a 100m sprinter and a devout Christian. At the Paris olympics in 1924 the 100m heats were on a Sunday and he refused to run as he considered that the sabbath and a day of rest. Therefore he ran in the 400m instead and won. Extreme, yes, but Eric was clear where his priorities were.

So… we have learnt that sport can teach us about a holistic lifestyle and the importance of putting in effort regularly to build up anything that we do. But what else can we learn?

I am always fascinated when I hear interviews from sports people who have a faith, and when giving their thanks to different people they give thanks to God. There is a recognition that they have achieved what they have achieved because of God. This may be because of a belief that they were created by God who gave them the skills and ability to achieve. It may also be linked to this verse from Isaiah which says

“but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Tiredness and exhaustion comes a lot in sport, whether practice or participation. This verse reminds us all that not only does our body and skill come from the Lord, but also our strength. Things may go wrong and this could be disastrous if you are relying upon your own strength, but if you acknowledge that you have strength in the Lord then you are reminded that you are not your own. Is this not the same in every aspect of life?

Challenge: are there things in your life that you want to develop and that you need to put more daily effort in? Do you try to do everything in your own power or do you allow yourself to lean on others, and on God? How can you do this more?

Prayer: Father God thank you that you have given us so many sports to enjoy participating in and watching. Thank you for those examples of people who through their sports are a witness to you. Help us to learn from sport about putting effort into things, and drawing on your strength. Amen

Music

What’s your favourite song? Would you be able to sing all of the words off by heart? I’m not sure if I have a favourite song but I have always loved music – which is possibly why I don’t have a favourite! I will listen to different kinds of music dependent on what I am doing. It might be 80s cheesy music, music from when I was at uni, worship music, or a soundtrack from a favourite film or show.

This week we are looking at the link between Christianity and music, and what a link there is. Our Bible reading for today comes from Colossians, a letter that Paul and Timothy wrote to the early church community in the city of Colossi, in Asia Minor. It says

“Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

This shows us that music has been an important part of Church community from the beginning of the Church, but what do Paul and Timothy mean when they say to use it to teach and admonish one another? I have grown up going to church and a part of that has always been singing hymns and songs. When I would go in to Church the first thing I would do was look at the hymn board to see what songs we were singing in the service. I would always enjoy the singing part of services, and I think this was because it was something I could be a part of as well.

However, as my faith has developed as I’ve grown older I’ve realised that a lot of my understanding of faith and theology has come from those songs. I will hear something in a sermon, and I’d be ale to link it to a song. Sometimes I am asked a question about God and I’m able to answer because of a piece of music. I know that I can tell you what the fruits of the spirit are because of a song I have sung.

I don’t know ab it you but I can’t remember quotes from books but I can remember lyrics from songs. This is why Paul and Timothy said what they did to the church in Colossus. They recognised the power that songs could have in teaching and growing the early church, and that they still have today. So many of the songs that we sing in worship are based purely on the Bible, and I know that I have learnt so much about the Bible and faith from songs I have sung.

But music itself is powerful as Bono says in our thought for the week

“Music can change the world because it can change people”

There are times when we can not express ourselves in words but music, somehow helps us. Music goes beyond our spoken language and helps break down barriers. There have been times when I’ve been very anxious but sitting down at the piano has helped to get rid of any tension! Even for those who would not consider themselves musical, they will often find that it has a power. If we find that music helps us not only to learn about God but also to break down barriers and help us individually…

Challenge How can we use music to break down barriers in our life but also in the world?

Prayer Father God thank you that we can learn about you and worship you through music. Thank for those who have the gift of writing songs that have helped us all. May we use music more to worship you. Amen

Literature

If you were asked what your favourite story was what would you say?

How do you feel when a story you know and love is being made into a programme or a film?

I know quite a few people who get quite anxious when that happens. Why? Because one of the reasons they love the stories themselves is because they have already created a certain picture in their imaginations and they worry that the creator of the film or programme will ruin that picture! A friend of mine told me last week that her son has read the first three Harry Potter books and has watched the first two films. Her daughter wants to watch the films, because her friend is allowed to. But my friend won’t let her watch the films until she has read the books, or had the books read to her!

The great thing about books is that we are able to create a picture in our heads, although we may be reading the same book or story as someone else, no one will have the same world in their heads as we will. Therefore no one will be experiencing it the same as we will. How exciting is that!

Throughout the Bible stories are used as a way to help people understand deep, theological truths, and people still use them today. Our Bible verse this week comes from the book of Daniel where it says

“To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.”

In the same way as when we hear stories we create our own world, we may well create our own meaning as well, or not even realise that there is a meaning in the first place and just hear a story.

When I was 7 I spent 6 weeks in hospital with a fractured arm. Whilst I was there my parents bought me a walk,an and the first two cassettes from the BBC adaptations of the Chronicles of Narnia – the magicians nephew, and the lion the witch and the wardrobe. I listened to them constantly and thus began my obsession with Narnia. It wasn’t until I was older that I discovered that C. S. Lewis wrote this books to share the message of Christianity.

I read all of them again when I was at university, and I felt like I was reading from a completely new light. The magicians nephew was showing the story of Genesis, the lion the witch and the wardrobe showing the story of Jesus, and the last battle a depiction of revelation. It gave me new insight into Narnia and into the Gospel. Does that take away from my reading them in the first place? No! Not at all, it just helped me look from a new perspective. I’m going to finish now with our thought for the week which comes from the last battle and says so much about books but also about our lives.

“All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

Challenge: think about your favourite story, what do you think the author was trying to say through that?

Prayer: Thank you father that give us the gift to be able to explain things using stories but also the ability to understand the meaning. Help us to be curious and to try and search deeper. Amen

Arts

I got two A grades in art at school – in case you only know the current grading that was the top mark. So in the three years that I had to do art I only ever got two top marks. I still remember them, the first one was for a piece of work I had to do using a compass – therefore not a great amount of my own creativity, just being able to change the size of the compass and make it symmetrical. The second one was for a model of a gargoyle – and of course the purpose of a gargoyle is to be scare people off, and therefore to be ugly. So I think it is fair to say that art is not my strong point.

Similar when it comes to sewing, or performing music, I’m not great at creating my own designs or songs but I can follow a pattern, or a sheet of music. Does that matter though? Does it make a difference? Our thought for the week this week says

“When human beings, as creations of God, create or encounter the creativity of others, something full circle happens.”

This would suggest that the creation itself is what is important, and how we encounter that. It may be that we are the ones creating from scratch, or copying, or just observing and appreciating – but still there is an encounter of the creation. We can create because we were created in the first place, the joy of creation is that no one person will create in the same way, we won’t encounter the creation in the same way. Similarly, as creations we reflect our creator, but we are all different.

Last week our bible verse spoke of the natural world that showed God’s glory, similarly in our verse this week we see God’s wisdom and creativity in the world. Psalm 104:24 says

“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”

For those who believe in a creator God they literally see that creation all around them, and recognise that creativity in themselves. What creativity is in you?

Challenge: where are you normally in the circle of creativity? Could you try something different this week?

Prayer: father God thank you that you created us, and that you made us to be creative. Help us to appreciate your creation and the creation of others Amen.

Science

This term we will be looking at different areas of the curriculum and how they link with faith, starting with science.

“I don’t believe in God. I believe in science” is a sentence I have heard numerous times, and often people think that they are using it as a strong argument, but it really does not convince me at all. Why? I don’t believe in science!

Don’t worry there’s no need to get worried or concerned, it’s a matter of terminology and science isn’t something that we believe in. Science is the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. Whereas to believe in something is to accept that something is true, especially without proof.

To say that science is a reason why people don’t believe in God, because it has been able to explain so many things – that I understand – but to say it’s because they believe in Science – not possible!

There are so many people who think that there has to be a conflict between science and faith, when actually they work together so beautifully. The argument from design is one example of this, where there is an acknowledgement of the intricacy in the natural world, that makes it work so perfectly, and then the argument suggests there is design which means there must be a designer which must be God.

The purpose of science is to discover more about the world. I am so grateful for the work of scientists, the discovery of medications, advancement in technology, understanding the world and eco system. Albert Einstein said “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” – he didn’t believe in a personal God but he recognised that there had to be something more. Science helps us to understand more and more about how the world works, when I discover more and the beauty and amazement in the world I find myself more dumbfounded (which is quite amazing). Some have said that science helps us to understand how, and God helps us to understand why – they don’t have to contradict, or be enemies. They can go hand in hand and compliment each other. After all Psalm 111:2 is one of the many verses in the Bible that shows this saying:

“Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them”

Look at the world, discover the world, try to observe the behaviour of it – consider why that is there.

Challenge: think about how science and faith can go hand in hand in your everyday life

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you created this world so intricately, thank you that you have given us the skills to discover more about it and to be able to use it to help others and to help the world. Help us to want to learn more about you through the world you have given us. Amen