The December practice for New Hope is to notice where the work, will, and presence of God "appear" throughout the day. For that reason, this post (and its follow-up) will be mirrored in the Everyday Spirituality:5x5 blog, which specializes in...

 

Where's Jesus?: The Practice for December- Part 2 and more...




Where's Jesus?: The Practice for December- Part 2

Where's JesusThe December practice for New Hope is to notice where the work, will, and presence of God "appear" throughout the day. For that reason,  this post  (and its follow-up) will be mirrored in the Everyday Spirituality:5x5 blog, which specializes in helping people recognize and respond to God in everyday life.

In my last post, I outlined a playful way to do the serious work of noticing where and how Christ appears in our everyday lives.  If Christmas is just a way to commemorate a particular day 2,000 years ago, it quickly becomes little more than sentiment and nostalgia. The unfinished business of Christmas is to let the birth of Christ continue to work in and through our lives. Our lives become the way "the Word" (John 1:1, 14) is made flesh today. 

Our practice for December is to notice and celebrate all the ways Christ appears in the lives around us. I chose to make it a daily game of "Where's Jesus?" and it has three parts:

  1. Recall the various traits and characteristics of Jesus
  2. Notice and celebrate how those traits are 'made flesh' in the lives of people around you. This is an activity that can be done with family, friends, or in your LIFE Groups.

This is a powerful practice. Try it for a week and watch what happens to the way you go through your day. This leads me to the third step and it has the power to change your world ...

 

        3. Let that person know what you saw.  Whether by card, Email, or in person, tell the person which characteristics or traits of Christ you experienced. 

Here is Why This is So Powerful

  1. It is a tangible way of expressing gratitude (one of the Essential Habits for flourishing souls.)
  2. It will bless the person you recognize. It is likely that your appreciation will surprise the other person because they won't see what they did as anything all that special.  But it was, and you should let them know.  Watch what happens when you do. You will encourage them in ways that make it more likely they will continue to do what they do because they know it can make a difference. 
  3. Watch what happens to you, too. When you write or tell someone what you saw, you will begin to see more and more examples of the life of Christ appearing all around you. More than just a set of tasks to get through, life becomes more and more an invitation to participate in the vibrant life and work of Christ.
  4. There will be ripples. Your actions would be enough if the appreciation ended there. It won't. Your actions will trigger others to do the same.  Imagine the effects when not only you but all those around you begin to see experience and appreciate the ways Christ is appearing in the lives of those around you. Imagine the exponential ways people will be encouraged and blessed. What would happen if you continued this practice for the rest of the month?

I Know, Email is Boring. I Can Help!

Let's face it. Email is fast but boring. That is why I created a template you can use.  Consider it as Christmas Stationery that can be downloaded, cut, and pasted into your Email. There is a place for the person's name as well as yours. There are opening and closing graphics. Most importantly, there is a place for you to be specific in your appreciation of how you experienced Christ in their actions.  Tell them what you saw and how it blessed your life, then send it. If it seems appropriate, feel free to"copy" it to me (rkane@newhopepres.org). I'd love to share in your celebration and look forward to seeing the cumulative effects of this practice.  

Can you create your own Email? Of course, you can! Please do! If it seems good, send it to me (it will work best as a .doc file) and I'll share it with others. Wouldn't it be amazing to create a whole set of "stationery" templates that people can use?

In Christ, the Word was "made flesh." Through Christ, that work continues. It is the unfinished work of Christmas. In the noticing, celebrating, and appreciation of Christ's work, we affirm this basic truth: The most important candle you will light this Advent...is you. 

 

      
 

Where's Jesus? : The Practice for December- Part 1

Where's JesusThe December practice for New Hope is to notice where the work, will, and presence of God "appear" throughout the day. For that reason,  this post  (and its follow-up) will be mirrored in the Everyday Spirituality:5x5 blog, which specializes in helping people recognize and respond to God in everyday life.

 

 

Even if you didn't have children growing up in the '80s, you will likely remember Waldo and the many scenes in which he needed to be "found." His appearance was distinctive in the red-striped shirt and knit cap. It should have been simple, but it wasn't. The noise and distractions of a crowd at the beach, fairground, park,  zoo, etc. could make it hard to pick out a single person no matter how distinctive. Once you found Waldo, of course, it was easy to spot him again and again. You wondered why it took you so long in the first place. 

Our practice for December is to notice where God appears in our everyday lives. This is the time of the year when we celebrate that "the Word became flesh" in Jesus Christ. At the first Christmas, the Divine was embodied (incarnated). This was meant to be more than a point in history to be memorialized every year. At its best, this season (Advent) attunes us to the work of God and is a template for how God continues to be embodied in us as an extension of the work of Christ. 

Which leads me back to Waldo...and Jesus.  Think of this month's practice as a daily, "Where's Jesus?" puzzle.

Like Waldo, Jesus is distinctive but is not always easy to spot in the middle of our noisy and busy lives, especially at Christmas (the irony should be noted.) But unlike Waldo, Jesus is not just in one place. The will and work of Christ can be seen everywhere if you know where to look.

Here's how it works:

  1. Bring to mind the distinct characteristics of Jesus. This is a great conversation with children, friends and LIFE Groups.  Likely you will identify things like:
    • Love
    • Joy
    • Compassion
    • Mercy
    • Long-suffering
    • Faithful
    • (you take it from here)
  2. Now, begin to notice where you see those qualities appear in the people around you:
    • The person who donates time or money to help the disadvantaged
    • The people who care for those grieving
    • The parents who love their child even as he/she is alienated from them
    • The one who goes out of their way to show kindness

 Where you see the qualities and characteristics of Christ embodied in others, you are seeing the unfinished and ongoing work of Christmas take place. You've "found" Jesus! The Divine is once again becoming incarnate. 

  Share what you find with others. Make it part of your daily practice. This alone will change the way your life. Once you begin to see Jesus revealed in your everyday life, you'll wonder why it took you so long in the first place. You might even begin to believe that Christ can work through you, too. The most important candle you light this Advent...is you.

There is a third step to this practice that will turbo-charge this even more. But that will be explained in the next post... 

      
 

The Unlit Candles of Christmas

Unlit candles adventChristmas is a time of candles and light, but it is not automatic. The candles of Christmas wait until someone chooses to light them. What is true for the candles on our tables, hearths, and sanctuaries is true for the light that shines through us. 

In the Church, it's called the season of Advent- which means "appearing" (for a 2-minute explanation of Advent, see the video at the end of this post.)  Candles have always played an important part in Advent. We light a candle every week in worship, each with a different theme:

Hope  +  Peace  +  Joy  +  Love

It's more than simply repeating the practices of the past, of course.  It is also an invitation to the future.  At its best, Advent pulls us into what is "yet to be"- God's future. The real choice of lighting candles is not to extend a familiar tradition one more year, but whether to embody  God's hope, peace, joy, and love today. 

That means the most important "candle" you will light this month...is you.

How do you relight that candle? What will help rekindle your passion and faith?   What miracles of the Spirit need to happen so Christ appears in you?

Here Are Two Simple Things You Can Do:

1. Memory Verse 

Commit this short sentence to memory. Keep it in front of you - especially when things seem overwhelming, or when you are wondering what to do next.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:5

2. Watch Where Places Where God is Appearing Today

One of the Five Focusing Questions* is, "Where has God been revealed in the events and interactions of your day?"  It's a powerful question that can change the way you live. Think of the characteristics and words associated with God (love, compassion, heal, righteous, just, mercy, joy, creativity, etc.) and see how they show up in the people around you. This is the Spirit at work.  If it helps, write these instances in a journal and watch for patterns.  Another way is to make a practice of sharing your discoveries with others.  The more you see what God is doing right now, the more life becomes an invitation to where God wants to "appear" in your life. 

Christmas is a function of the calendar. It is going to happen one way or another. Advent, on the other hand, is a matter of choice.  #lightemup!

Advent in 2 Minutes

 

* The Five Focusing Questions are part of Everyday Spirituality:5x5, a simple and deliberate process for bringing more depth, purpose, and joy into your life and to bless those around you. You can find out more by clicking on the above link. If it seems helpful, "subscribe" to the page (it's free) and you'll get helpful posts Emailed to you three times a week. 

 

A Big Table, Indeed!

2019-1121; Interfaith Thanksgiving ServiceWe hosted the community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service last night and people are still smiling.

They should!

People from many traditions came to share how the universal virtue of Gratitude was experienced and nurtured in their tradition.  The presentations were meaningful and thoughtful. The evening was joyous.

It was also timely. 

The spirit of the time is isolating us. More and more reasons are found there for why we can't sit at the same table, live in the same community, or exist in the same world.  "Different" is viewed as "dangerous." 

Gratitude undermines that spirit and unites us. Gratitude reminds us that all is a gift and that gift is bigger than our differences. More than ever, it was good to be reminded that differences don't need to threaten us. They can enrich us.

In a time when "religion" is too-often experienced as part of the problem, it was gratifying to be part of a religious ceremony where people of different faiths came together to express gratitude- and got to be on the solution-side of things.

Thank you to all who participated, including the 80 plus folks who comprised the Community Choir.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

Thanksgiving Around a Big Table

Thanksgiving Interfaith service 2019"We are at our best when we invite people to a Big Table."

That is one of our five core values at New Hope.  It seems like a pretty good reminder for Thanksgiving, too. 

That is why I am excited about hosting an Interfaith Thanksgiving Service on Thursday, November 21 @ 6:30. The theme is "Living Gratitude Together," and we will have participants from Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, and other faith communities sharing how gratitude and thanksgiving are expressed in their tradition. There will be an all-community choir singing a piece we have recently used in worship (Awakening.)  What begins in the Sanctuary will flow afterward into a reception in Fellowship Hall with favorite Thanksgiving desserts.

As an offering, please bring a non-perishable food item for the Help & Hope Center. You can find a list of needed items here. If you want to contribute financially, we'll be happy to forward that to them, too! 

As hosts, we are providing the desserts- and we could use a few more. We have a Sign-Up Genius form that will let us know how many (and what kind) of desserts to expect. If you have used this before, you already know what to do. If not, you'll need to "Create a Sign Up" using the link in the upper right-hand corner of the page. It will only take a couple of minutes and of course, it's free. From there, let us know what kind of dessert (any kind of Thanksgiving favorite will work!) you'll be bringing. We think we'll need about 30. If you are using a container you want to be returned, please be sure to mark it with your name. 

I can't think of a better way to launch the season of Thanksgiving than with a celebration around a truly "Big Table." I hope you'll be there, too!