Tag Archives: advent

The Miracle!

All the waiting, all the yearning, all the longing . . . all caught up into one spectacular mystery. The fullness of God entering into humanity, taking on the limitations of flesh and bone and breath. With divine compassion, experiencing our frailty. With grace spanning eternity past to infinite future, entering into finite time and limited space.

incarnationThe miracle of the Incarnation.

When God answered the prayer, “O Come!” When the promises of the ages appeared in a strange and hardly recognizable fulfillment: the King of Kings, the Desire of Nations, in the wrinkled palms and piercing wail of a suckling, swaddled infant.

This is the miracle and the mystery: That in the first Advent, Emmanuel came. And that we await his Second Advent in which all these promises bloom into ultimate fulfillment.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
REJOICE! REJOICE!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel! Continue reading

Oh, the Joy!

Advent — our season of awaiting — is drawing to a close. This is the week of the joy, of the celebration, of the coming of our Lord.

color lightsOf light peeping through, shining in, blazing forth.

The illumination that helps us see.

That helps us see rightly our world, our selves, our hope.

Take a moment to breathe deeply and contemplate the beautiful truth of the Incarnation. Consider this rendering from The Message:

The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness;
 
the darkness couldn’t put it out.
 
. . . The Life-Light was the real thing:
 
Every person entering Life
 
he brings into Light.
 
He was in the world,
 
the world was there through him,
 
and yet the world didn’t even notice.
 
He came to his own people,
 
but they didn’t want him.
 
But whoever did want him,
 
who believed he was who he claimed
 
and would do what he said,
 
He made to be their true selves,
 
their child-of-God selves.
 
. . . The Word became flesh and blood,
 
and moved into the neighborhood.
 
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
 
the one-of-a-kind glory,
 
like Father, like Son,
 
Generous inside and out,
 
true from start to finish.
 (John 1:5, 9-13)
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Pain in the Background

Behind all the joyful smiles, for some the holiday season is a deeply painful season. Perhaps it is because of loneliness, painful family memories, or loss. If you are suffering during this season of celebration, you are not alone!

A few years ago my friend, author Holley Gerth, stopped by to talk about what it means to celebrate even when life is difficult or painful. I hope this excerpt from our 2011 interview provides you with hope.

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(From December 2011)

Holley-pic-NEW-2You may have heard of Holley Gerth — she’s got a hugely popular blog called “Heart to Heart with Holley.” She’s the author of Rain on Me, God’s Heart for You, and You’re Already Amazing. She’s also created thousands of greeting cards and gifts for DaySpring, the Christian subsidiary of Hallmark and is the cofounder of their web site for women, (in)courage. Holley shares her heart and home with Mark and a crazy dog.

I’m sure you’ll be encouraged and inspired by her honest words.  Keep reading . . . 

Holley, tell my readers about yourself!

I love chocolate, coffee, my husband, and Jesus (not in that order). I’m not a morning person—I once put chocolate on the alarm clock to bribe myself to get up. I ate it and went back to bed. Yes, ma’am. But I married an early bird so I’m learning to change my ways. I’m named after my Grandpa Hollie. He and my Grandma had a  Christian bookstore so I grew up dreaming of being a writer. Being able to share God’s heart with women through words is my passion and I feel so grateful to be able to do so every day. It’s the next best thing to having coffee with all of my readers—which I would do if I could!

This month we’re looking at the twin spiritual disciplines of worship and celebration. In a very basic sense, I define them as praising and thanking God for who he is (worship); and praising and thanking God for what he does (celebration). Why do you think these disciplines are important?

Our church service last night was actually about worship and how it transforms us. The pastor talked about how closely the word “worship” is related to “service” in Greek and Hebrew.Over time I’ve come to see worship not as what we do at church but as a lifestyle of serving Jesus. To me, worship means bowing our hearts to God and saying, “I’m your servant. Use me as little or as much as you want.” That’s actually the prayer I say each morning as I get ready to write. I’ve also started writing what I’m thankful for in a journal each day. I use an unlined journal and draw all kinds of crazy pictures and things. But it works for me.

I recently read that our brains have a natural “negativity bias.” In other words, we tend to focus on and remember what’s negative better. That is a gift from God to help us survive (for example, focusing more on the bear charging out of the woods than the lovely flower behind it). But on a day-to-day basis, it means that we have to be intentional about refocusing our hearts and attention. We don’t need to feel guilty about our tendency to be negative but we do need to recognize it and change it through worship and gratitude. What’s amazing is that our brains literally rewire themselves as we think new thoughts. We actually create new neural pathways and are “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” Isn’t that beautiful?

Wow — Yes! Celebration can take many forms — gratitude, joy, prayer, praise, feasting, and more. When has celebration made a difference in your life?

I feel like this has been a year of learning to embrace joy in my life. Continue reading

The Second Advent

This week in my TCW Advent devotional calendar I encourage readers to focus on the theme of waiting. We often tend to think of the people in the Old Testament awaiting the Messiah — and this is a crucial aspect of Advent. But traditionally Advent is also about our waiting. We too are part of the great Story!

colorful lightsThe word advent means “coming” or “arrival.” While God’s people in the Old Testament waiting the coming of the Messiah, we await the Second Advent: the culmination of our hope. This Second Advent will usher in Jesus’ kingdom of peace and justice!

“Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:3-4). 

Focus this week on your own waiting, your own hope. Jesus shall reign!

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The Christmas Gospel (Go After It!)

Last year I had the great privilege of interviewing author and professor Patty Kirk about her great Advent/Christmas book. Here we revisit our conversation — I’m sure it will encourage you as much as it blessed me!

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(From December 2012)

One extra-special part of Advent for me is the reading: The time I return to well-worn favorite books that come out just this time of year, such as Madeleine L’Engle’s books, poems, and Christmas stories or Walter Wangerin Jr.’s  Preparing For Jesus. I’m especially excited this year because I have a NEW Advent book to dwell in: The Gospel of Christmas by Patty Kirk (InterVarsity Press). Patty, a professor and author, was gracious enough to share her thoughts about Advent with me and with you, my readers.

Patty, welcome! Please tell my readers a bit about yourself.

PattyKirkI grew up believing in God but lost track of him in my teens -— along with most other comforting certainties — and spent the next decades roaming the world seeking I didn’t know what. I made an unhappy atheist, envious of those I encountered who somehow managed not only to believe in but to depend on the promises of an invisible, inaudible, intangible being. Eventually, I regained a sense of God’s existence and attention, but the one thing that connects my believing years — as a child and later in adulthood — with those intervening years of atheism was the excitement and, paradoxically, the longing that filled me during the Christmas season. Ever since my return to faith, I have written out of this longing every Advent, and this book is what I wrote.

Our culture is so Christmas-consumerism-crazy right now, that it can be difficult to create space in our lives — and in our hearts — for Advent. Are there spiritual practices, traditions, or habits that help you foster the Advent spirit in your life during this often hectic season?

gospel of christmasSo, for me, Advent means that period of longing and excitement that overcomes us at Christmas. The longing for something more, yes -— for meaning or certainty or quiet or, as you say, “space” in our lives and hearts for God.

But Advent is also that very hectic jolliness: the gathering of families, children’s eagerness for presents, the shopping and card-writing and tree-decking and worrying we won’t get it all done, what I like to call the jingle-belling of the Christmas season. During Advent, I consciously re-visit my old sad longing for the Bible’s promises to be true and simultaneously latch onto the hectic celebration of those promises’ fulfillment. Continue reading

15 Ideas for Observance

How can you make this Advent and Christmas season a meaningful one for you and your family?

candle flameI’ve got 15 ideas for ya.

Ideas #1 through 10: In 2007, my dear friend Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence & I wrote an article for TCW describing 10 fun & meaningful ideas for Advent. Though TCW shortened the article, you can find our full, longer version here (FREE!).

Idea #11: One resource I LOVE and personally use most years during Advent is Preparing For Jesus by (my creative writing prof from Valpo & National Book Award winner & pastor) Walter Wangerin, Jr. This unique devotional resource envisions the people and events of the Nativity story in a deeply enriching way.

Idea #12: OK, it’s sort of cheesy, but I LOVE this YouTube video of “Mary Did You Know?” from The Bible TV mini-series. It’s been a great discussion-starter for me and my kids, opening the door to talk about various events from the Gospels (& Acts) and the ultimate purpose of Jesus’ birth. Watch it with your loved ones to open up a spiritual conversation.

Idea #13: A new experience for us this year is reading through The Christmas Mystery by Norwegian author Jostein Gaarder. It’s a whimsical Advent-themed novel with a mini-chapter to read each day (starting December 1). We’ve only read the first few chapters so far, but it’s amazing!

Idea #14: Check out my TCW Advent Calendar with day-by-day ideas to deepen your spiritual experience all this month.

Idea #15: Just in case you missed it, you can click here to find some fun winter/Christmas-themed recipes to enjoy with your family.

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Holiday Treats

color lightsThe holidays are a great time to make some fun treats with your kids . . . and gobble them up together! Here are recipes for 3 of my faves.

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Snow Ice Cream

(Excerpted from my book Faith-Filled Moments: Helping Kids See God in Everyday Life; Wesleyan Publishing House, with permission)

Ingredients

8 to 10 cups fresh, clean snow
1 14-oz. can Eagle sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

 Instructions:

Help your child use a measuring cup to fill a large mixing bowl with 8 to 10 full cups of fresh, fluffy snow. In a separate bowl, stir together the condensed milk and vanilla. If it’s not thinned down enough, add 1 teaspoon of whole milk and stir it in. Slowly pour the liquid into the bowl of snow while you gently stir it in. When it’s mixed sufficiently, serve it up in bowls with spoons and start eating. Yum!

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Microwave Manger Cookies 

(Also excerpted from Faith-Filled Moments; WPH, with permission) Continue reading

Advent Ideas

Advent may be my most favorite time of the year. It’s a time of darkness, shivers, and cold . . . but also of starlight, snuggles, and hope!

red berriesIt’s a time we focus on God’s amazing promises–on his plan of redemption weaving both subtly and powerfully throughout human history. It is the time we dwell in the beautiful truth: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).

Do you desire to deepen your own spiritual experience of Advent? Or are you looking for ways to make it a meaningful season for your kids? Throughout this month I’ll be featuring a variety of ideas for you–spiritual encouragement, fun activities, and great resources you can use during Advent. 

This first week of Advent, let me encourage you to  zero in on God’s messianic promises in the Old Testament. Spend time in the beauty of words of hope like these:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this. 
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

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Stay tuned for 3 fun holiday recipes to enjoy with your kids… I’ll be posting them later this week.

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Also, if you haven’t checked it out yet, here’s a day-by-day devotional calendar I created for Today’s Christian Woman. This resource is packed with spiritual encouragement and some of my favorite ideas for marking the season with God and with those you love. Each weak of this calendar delves into a key biblical theme of Advent, helping you and your family connect with God in profoundly meaningful ways.

 

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A Deeper Advent, Day by Day

cold morningAdvent — the four weeks preceding Christmas — begins this Sunday, December 1. I’m excited to share with you a day-by-day devotional calendar you can use on your own (or with your family) to delve deeper into the meaning of this season. This devo calendar includes Scripture study, contemplation, service to others, interaction with prayers from church history, music, creative avenues of worship, fun food and crafts, and other hands-on experiences.

Check it out here at Today’s Christian Woman — and be sure to share it with friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving . . . and blessed Advent!

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Pencil It In . . .

color lightsIf you’re like me and you love Advent & Christmas time, this is just a reminder that Advent starts very soon. Sunday, December 1st, is the first Sunday of Advent this year. Stay tuned to this site for a ton of great Advent-themed ideas, discussion, and devotional material! I’m especially excited to share with you, very soon,  a devotional calendar with content for each day of Advent that I created for Today’s Christian Woman.

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Also, if you are looking for meaningful spiritual gifts to give to your loved ones this Christmas and if you’re a plan-ahead-er rather than a last-minute-er, consider checking out my books. I’ve got resources for families, for mothers, for grandparents, and my Flourishing Faith series of devotional studies. You can find them all on amazon. Or, if you’d like a signed copy, you can contact me directly at trujillokelli@yahoo.com and I’ll make sure you get one. Thanks!