Pilgrim Notes

Reflections along the way.

Category: Advent (page 1 of 8)

Behold Your Salvation is Near

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For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. (Romans 13:11–12)

On some nights, the fog of fear and doubt bewitch the mind and torment the heart. We can be trapped in a moment of anguish that feels like ages. For some people, this moment extends to days, weeks, even years. In C.S. Lewis’s novel, The Silver Chair, the prince has been bewitched by the dark Queen of the Underland. He forgets who he is and becomes her slave. When the children try to rescue him, the Queen tries to seduce them and soon they are ready to doubt the sun, the world above, and the hope beyond them. They are falling under her spell.

The constant bombardment of dark news and sad stories can quickly convince us that darkness is rising and the light is fading. Continue reading

Beginning the Advent Journey

adventThe year begins in darkness. Long nights, short days. We gather before the dawn–in the dark of human struggles and fears and loss. What lies ahead? What obstacles may block our way? Will we lose our way in the valley of the shadow of death? Night terrors haunt our days with division and distrust all around us. The nation is shouting. Brother against brother. Fathers and sons turning apart. Our country and even our world seem doomed to repeat another year of anger and hatred; another year of striving. Continue reading

Holy Fire

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“The Lord comes roaring out of Zion.” The shepherds weep. The mountains wither. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Advent may be far more risky than we ever imagined. The coming of the Lord may cost us everything.

It is so easy to forget that He is a Consuming Fire. Continue reading

Advent Calendar

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We had a simple cardboard Advent calendar that marked the days until Christmas. Each day had a small flap that opened to reveal a little picture beneath the larger picture. This simple, inexpensive calendar opened a window to a world of wonders just beyond my grasp. Continue reading

Advent in the Midst of Christmas Rush

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We call the weeks prior to Christmas, “Advent.” We order this time for intentional watching and waiting on the coming of the Lord. And yet, during these same weeks we feel the pressure to buy, celebrate, and feast. How do we live into the call to watch and wait while juggling Christmas shopping, decorating, multiple parties, and the ongoing challenges of work and home? Continue reading

Advent – To the Wonder

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In some ways, the journey into Advent is a journey into wonder. It begins with the people living in great darkness and ends with the birth of Jesus, the Light of the World. As we look and long for his coming, we turn toward Him in our thoughts, meditations upon Scripture, and songs of the season. We sing, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” Continue reading

Advent – Into the Light

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“I don’t know what to do!” cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath…I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”

After Scrooge awakes from his night with the ghosts, he is overjoyed to be alive and greets the day with laughter and merry-making. He steps out of the dark and into the light. During Advent, we rehearse the hope of stepping out of the dark and into the light. We are reminded, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). Continue reading

Advent – Prepare the Way of the Lord

St_John_the_Baptist_Preaching_to_the_Masses_in_the_Wilderness_oil_on_oak_panel_by_Pieter_Brueghel_the_Younger copy

A voice cries out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord.”

Come all you saints and sinners, prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord. Come you weak and weary. Find rest for your souls. Come you strong and full of vigor. Behold the source of your life. For the King approaches. Come you poor and rich alike. Offer your lives in worship. Come you hungry and full, behold the feast has been set before us. Come you joyful. Come you grieving. Put on the garment of praise for the Comforter stands among us with healing in his wings. Let us all come before the throne of mercy and grace, to watch and wait together for the Lord, the Savior, the Redeemer who brings salvation to His people and to His world. Continue reading

Advent – The Day is Coming

candle at dawn
The day of the Lord is coming. Advent resounds the promise of His coming: His justice, His glory, His light that overcomes all darkness. We step into the season of Advent like a child awaking before the dawn and exclaiming that the sun is coming. He cannot see the its piercing fire; he cannot feel its blanketing warmth, but he knows that it is coming. The day is ready to burst forth into newness. Continue reading

Christmas Trees in Advent

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Advent rhythms gently beat in my heart while Christmas carols boom in my ears. I feel torn between the deep ache of Advent longing and the joyful outbreak of Christmas festival. How do I hold these two distinct rhythms together? How do I journey from the Jews crying out in exile to shepherds rejoicing at the manger?

Last Monday night we visited some friends who live in a 150-year-old family cabin. Stepping into their home felt like stepping into the past. It was as though I stood in the present and the past at the same time. Is there a way to keep standing in Advent reflection while also standing in the middle of Christmas trimmings?

Christmas joy lights my city. I see bright blue, green, red and white trees glowing atop the buildings. Shiny, happy trees spring up in homes, in yards, in stores and even in some churches. Like hearty fruit trees, the branches of these evergreens hang low with the colorful ornaments and glistening lights.

Ezekiel also sees trees all around him, but these trees are not shiny or happy. They are burning. They are falling. They reveal a world coming to an end. Looking back at the sparkling Christmas tree, I begin to see shadows of another age, a sad struggle, a world falling, a prophet crying. Egypt and Assyria who once stood tall like proud Cedars of Lebanon came tumbling down when the ax was laid at the root. One by one the nations around Judah fell. Then Judah toppled. The people of God were dispersed into the darkness of Babylon. Eventually Babylon falls.

The kingdoms of the world fell and will continue falling till the end of the age. No matter how great, how glorious the powers of world may be, they will not always stand. Kingdoms topple before the King. Wicked rulers who oppress their people, wicked managers who take advantage of their employees, wicked parents who abuse their children: all kings and kingdoms will fall. Evil will not prevail. The ax is laid to the root. Only one kingdom will stand: A kingdom of love.

I continue to gaze into the Christmas tree, and I am remembering a tree stump that came back to life. Isaiah looks at that stump of the House of David where the tree once was, and boldly says,

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
                        And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.” (Is 11:1-2)

From a dead stump, the Kingdom of God springs forth with life eternal. He is the tree that appeared the least of all seeds. So often His kingdom looks weak, failing, falling and fading. Actually, His tree, his kingdom will one day grow greater than all the trees, “so that the birds of the air will come and nest in its branches” (Matt 13:31-32).

I gaze back at the Christmas tree, and I think that maybe it is standing in two places at once. The plainchant of Advent longing stills sounds in our Christmas joy and glimpses of Christmas joy penetrate the plainchant of Advent longing. Joy and sorrow are distinct and yet bound up in one another.

During Advent, I long for the king who is coming and whose kingdom of love and life will prevail. The colorful ornaments on the Christmas tree remind me of a fruit that bring will bring healing to the nations. Beholding the lights, I rejoice that His kingdom of light will shine brighter than the noonday sun.

image by duane schoon (used by permission via Creative Commons)

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