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Advent Readings

I wrote the advent readings for the advent season at Richmond Town Methodist Church. Lighting advent candles is an old church tradition and brings to remembrance the waiting for, and the birth of, the Messiah. The first one - the Candle of Peace - was a collaboration with my husband (who ended up writing most of it). The rest are mine.

Candle of Peace

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men and women on whom his favor rests.”

Every year we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. There is excitement in the air! There’s shopping to do, gifts to wrap, Christmas carols to sing! Family, friends, laughter, and so much fun to be had! Yes, it is a time to celebrate. But stop for a moment and think…what are we celebrating?

Good news of great joy?
Peace on earth?

What are we celebrating?

If peace came to earth that night, where is it now? Is there peace for the child that will shiver on the street through December? Is there peace for the refugees of the Gujarat riots of 2002, who struggle through each day? And what of strife torn Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Kashmir? Will the Adivasi woman who was stripped naked and beaten on the streets of Guwahati last week be at peace this Christmas? And what about us? As we sit here, are we at peace? What turmoil do we go through as we think of our own lives?

What is Christian peace? And is God at p…

Candle of Hope

Today we light the candle of hope. Advent brings with it a spirit of expectation, of longing, of preparation. It is the anticipation of a coming Messiah. Through Old Testament history, the people of Israel waited to be released from the oppression of wicked kings and self-centered religious leaders. Constantly, they were being led astray by false prophets. God had then kept silent. And the people of Israel hoped God would raise up a new king, who would show them how they could be God’s people. They longed for the return of God’s presence among them.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.
And ransom captive Israel.

God had revealed through His prophets that He would not leave His people without a Shepherd. He would not let their hope die. But the people expected an earthy King, with all the power and might they saw in the Roman emperors. God sent them a child, born in a cattle shed, whose only “Kingly” procession would be on a donkey. The people didn’t realize that God had revealed Himself in Christ…

Candle of Joy

My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour;
He has looked with favour on His lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed;
the Almighty has done great things for me and holy is his name.

Mary rejoiced when Gabriel told her of the coming child. She sang a song of joy, grateful for the favour bestowed upon her. Did this young, Jewish girl, think of the repercussions of her pregnancy? Did she, even for a moment, think of what Joseph would say, of what people would think, of what would become of her when her family found out? Apparently, at least at the time of the announcement, she doesn't seem to worry. She considers herself blessed! We can only assume that having encountered a messenger from God, having being made a part if God's plan for Israel, Mary is so filled with joy that she does not think of earthly consequences at all! She praises God and her lips sing a song that can only come from her heart.

The shepherds were out in the fie…

Candle of Love

Candle of Love - Advent Reading 4

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

This is the message of Christmas. This is why Jesus came. At the core of the Christmas message is really just one thing – love. At the core of Christianity is really just one thing – love.

Today we light the advent candle of love. As we do, let us pause for a moment to consider this love. This love that left heavenly realms to be born in a cattle shed. This love that gave up all power and might, to become a little child, helpless and needing care from humans. This love that chose to sit with those who had no home, eat with those who no one else would eat with, speak to those who no one bothered to speak to. Consider this great love that chose to become a sacrifice for creation that had scorned, ridiculed, and turned away from Him. Consider this love that came into the world as flesh, was hungry, was tired, wept, laughed, wa…

The Christ Candle

The waiting is over! The Messiah has come! It is in His coming that our hope, peace, joy and love are full. As we light the Christ Candle, we affirm that God is with us. As we light the candle, we are actually saying that the God who made the heavens and the earth, and all the creatures of the earth, is with us! Pause for a moment and think of that really means… God with us! Let this affirmation not get lost with the many words that we hear and speak everyday. Let it not become another phrase that we use along with our many shouts of acclamation. Pause and take in this most blessed truth – God is with us!

For the Israelites in Jesus’ time to say “God is with us” would mean so much more than what it would mean for you and me today. For years the people of Israel were under slavery, were lied to, were oppressed. Imagine what it must mean for these people to say, “Emmanuel has come! God is with us!” They were saying that God was on their side!

Are you saying that now? Can you affirm that…

Nowhere

Nowhere to run,
Nowhere to hide,
Nowhere to lay my head,
Nowhere to die.

Nowhere to cry,
Nowhere to grieve,
Nowhere to curl up,
Nowhere to scream.

Nowhere to be safe,
Nowhere to be free,
Nowhere to be loved,
Nowhere to be me.

He collects our garbage

Every morning he comes around with his cart, collecting our leftovers, our waste, our broken bottles.
He collects our garbage.
He sifts through it with hands that have gone numb from working with filth.
He sorts out the plastics, the paper, the glass.
The stench.
He does not smell. He does not feel.
Too many mornings have gone by to think of what is clean and what is not.
When my father was ill he came to the hospital with fruit and bournvita.
We never did anything for him, but he came.
I do not know his name, or how many children he has.
I only know, he collects my garbage.
Every morning.

Water for everyone

I stopped at the traffic junction. The little children were there. The ones who do those strange acrobatics and squeeze themselves through little loops. The ones whose parents sit on the pavement beating a steel plate with a spoon. Their mother must have applied the lipstick and smeared the pink color on their cheeks, and lined their eyes with kajal. A little boy came up to my car window asking for money. I had a fruit I normally carry to work, so I called him over to my side and gave it to him. He took it graciously, and said, "Aunty... pani hai tho dho". Aunty if you have water please give me. So I gave him my bottle. He took it and ran off and gave it to an older boy who drank.

The reality of their situation came back to me and I even felt guilty that I had left behind work that may have helped children like them. I thought as I drove away in my car, of how water should be everybody's right. Of how children should not be made to dance like monkeys on the street. (And n…

Don't we know...

A boy of three was practicing for his little speech for a Sunday School program at church. His mum was teaching him to say something like, "Everybody is looking for love and trying to find where it starts. But they can't seem to find it and are getting very very tired. The toddlers of Sunday School would like to sing a song about where we think love starts". And the little boy, who is about 4 said, "Why should we say 'think'. We know love comes from God!"
"Let the little children come unto me, for to such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven". And so it is. For all my study, for all my years of being a 'Christian', I have not been able to say with such confidence, "I know". Truly, to enter the Kingdom, one must become a child.

God is interested

Over the past two weekends I have begun to see that God is really interested in me. Even though I have not made much of an effort to stay in touch, He is still watching over me... even working on me and sometimes, through me. This is overwhelming. That God would use people who were trying to run away from Him. That I would be allowed to be part of the great mystery, to be part of the transferring of His Grace even at a time when I have paid very little attention to Him...well, at least in the regular sense. I think God is never far from my mind, or my beliefs. I have only been upset sometimes, even disappointed, and confused. But I have never truly believed that God didn't exist. So, when He does make himself known in the physical world, it's wonderful. Of course I feel like a fool for acting like a spoilt brat but...it really is wonderful!

Festival of lights?

It's Diwali. My neighbour has set off a 1000 piece string of firecrackers. It has been going off for the past five minutes and counting. My dog has not eaten all day, and is scared to death. I don't know what he must be feeling. I also remember a child at this point who has Down's syndrome. She hates the firecrackers. She does not understand them and is afraid of the noise. Why do we like noise so much? Why do we like explosions? What strange pleasure do we derive from having our ears go numb from continuous noise?

Little girl at school

I was at a school for differently abled children this morning. Someone carried a little girl through the gate, into the lobby and placed her on the floor. He left her pink school bag next to her. She sat there, staring at the floor with a single expression on her face. I wondered what she was thinking. She was there for a good five minutes and then a helper at the school came, lifted her and put her on her feet, and made her walk. What goes on in these children's minds?

Birthing

A friend of mine was in labour for 41 hours. Phew! I can't imagine what her body and mind went through. When I met her after the baby was born, she was happy. Yes she was beginning to feel the bruises, the aches and pains, but never did she regret it. Not once. She was so sure that this is how God wanted it, and the anxiety, the pain, all of it was gone. Of course, the general hassles of being a mother, and taking care of an infant were there and very real, but the joy on my friend's face was so beautiful. I think this is so because they were so prepared for their child. They had waited, worked on their relationship, learned to trust God and each other, and they were so ready! It's important to be ready to have a child. Very important.

Choosing to be happy

When you decide to be happy, you are. When you decide you want to live a life that is interesting, wonderful, fantastic...you do. Often we don't see the little things that are out of the ordinary. Moments that bring smiles, laughter, and excitement. It's the little things that make life better. The seemingly insignificant connections we make with people, or with the universe that makes us believe that there is some meaning to our existence ... some meaning after all.