Mary, whose heart is full of things to ponder, goes to see her older relative Elizabeth in the hill country. Both are pregnant. Both are in on the secret of the Messiah. They are brimming with possibility and responsibility. They have both surrendered in a visceral, physical way to the flow of divine will.
Sometimes I wish the perennial efforts to wring some fresh meaning from amidst the hecticness of Advent would abate. It feels like open season for religious cliches and uninteresting comments about busyness, when all I want is silence.
Congregations in Mennonite Church B.C. have been observing Advent in various ways through December.
Yarrow United Mennonite celebrated First Advent, the Sunday of joy, with a bulletin display set up in the church foyer. Church members could write what brings them joy on the display to share with others.
(Photo by Dan Kiefer/Unsplash)
“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Our world is weary. Throughout the past year many people have lost hope because of unprecedented crises and the ongoing pandemic, waiting and hoping for better times.
The executive minister for Mennonite Church Canada extends Advent greetings to the nationwide church in a video posted on YouTube earlier this week.
(Photo by Max Beck/Unsplash)
One of my earliest memories is singeing my eyelashes while blowing out an Advent candle. I distinctly remember standing at the crate that served as our coffee table, leaning in to blow out the first candle and jumping back as my parents gasped. Undaunted, I leaned back in and blew out the second. I wasn’t about to forfeit my turn blowing out the candles to my sister over a little heat.
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of the Christian year, so it would be appropriate to greet each other with the recognition that a new year has begun.
Jack Skellington, the main character in the 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas, asks some great questions. (Photo by Christin Noelle/Unsplash)
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” Isaiah 61:3 (NLT)
A movie seemingly made for Christmas 2020 appeared almost 30 years ago—a creepy little stop-motion musical, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Was it a Christmas movie, a Halloween movie, or both? This year, I feel like I’m trying to prepare for Christmas in a rather ghastly Halloween world.
If you’re missing the songs you are used to singing and hearing in church at this time of year, Canadian Mennonite has just the thing for you.
The carol “O Little Town of Bethlehem” paints a Christmas card picture of the ancient town of the Nativity: sparkling stars lighting quiet streets, a Holy Baby resting in a manger as the townspeople sleep, unaware. That idyllic view was replaced by a fuller perspective when my family moved to Israel in 1996.
(Photo by Greyson Joralemon/Unsplash)
“An urgent reality … a state of public health emergency.” This is how our premier, Jason Kenney, described our situation in Alberta last week because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is probably not news to anyone that the number of new cases in Alberta has continued to rise dramatically over the last couple weeks. Hospitals are filling up with COVID-19 patients and intensive care units are nearly at full capacity. Many of us have at least been indirectly affected now and perhaps we even know one of the many beloved people who have died due to complications of the virus.
As Christmas approaches, many of us are thinking about gifts. The beautifully wrapped packages under the Christmas tree, of course. Also other types of gifts—the kind that we can receive and give at any time of the year. The gifts that require more than a click on a website or a trip to the mall.
Advent is the season of waiting for the gift to come. Advent moves into the season of Christmas, which ends at Epiphany, when the Magi—possibly Zoroastrians—famously gave gifts to the infant Jesus.
(Image by Dale Forbes/Pixabay)
waiting in the dark
this season and place
tilted away from the sun
provides generous hours
darkness may harbour
endless dread of unknowns
darkness may host
visitations in dreams
babies grow strong
in dark wombs
turnips and beet roots
stretch and fatten
in dark earth
a poignant canvas for
'One of the ways we can expand the table and experience community with the wider Church is by following the rhythms of the church calendar.' (Image by cocoparisienne/Pixabay)
I don’t recall talking about Advent in the church in which I grew up, an Anabaptist church with a conservative evangelical bent. Certainly we didn’t mention Lent. And those other church days, with names like “Epiphany” and “Trinity Sunday” and “Feast of Christ the King”? Those weren’t even in my universe.
GOSHEN, Ind. — Goshen College will offer annual online weekday devotions to help believers make time and space in their hearts and minds to reflect during the season of Advent. Beginning Nov. 25, the week before the first Sunday of Advent, and culminating on Christmas Day, Goshen College students, faculty and staff will provide weekday reflections based on the lectionary Scripture passages.
From the moment we learned I was pregnant, the baby we longed for was continually on my mind. What would it look like? What kind of personality would it have? How would this baby change our life? I was truly “expecting.” Expectant waiting with our baby in mind transformed not just me and my husband, but our whole extended family.
God of grace, today we pray for peace for the City of Bethlehem.
It has had more than its share of conflict,
as it has changed from a sleepy little town to a bustling city
that is visited by millions each year.
Lord, you know the walls that separate people in Bethlehem:
walls of concrete, walls of prejudice, walls of hatred,
Advent means arrival. During Advent we contemplate and celebrate the arrival of our Messiah. However, the purpose of Advent for Spirit-filled followers of Christ is not to pretend to long for the coming of Christ, whose presence we are already intimately familiar with.
What are the significant stories in this issue? When I asked this question in the office, the answer came back: “They’re all significant.” This, our Christmas issue, is chock-full of stories to pay attention to—with our prayers and actions.
Two international stories stand out—some good news and some heart-breaking news.
Advent, according to one definition, is “the arrival of a notable person, thing or event.” Yet along the way, we’ve come to associate Advent not with arrival, but with waiting.
In the northern hemisphere, Advent comes to us in the darkest time of the year. Christmas is advertised and celebrated as the happiest time of the year, and for some it is just that. But for others, Christmas is indeed the darkest time, where loneliness seems lonelier, when separation feels more separate, and despair calls our name.
Last year I wrote about Advent as a time of pregnant waiting, and of the way that Mary exemplifies mothering as the embodied practice of hospitality, fulfilling the biblical call to welcome the stranger (Lev. 19:33-34, Matt. 25, etc.) You can read “Making space for the stranger” here.
Today, I'm reflecting on Jesus as a refugee.
We are accustomed to reading the narrative of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) as something of an ethereal event, a moment of encounter with the divine realm during which Mary’s feet didn’t quite touch the ground. But in our preoccupation with the other-worldly, we can overlook the fact that this is one of the most this-worldly narratives in the entire Bible, since its principal concern is Mary’s sharing of her body and blood with God, making it possible for God to become incarnate. 
A highlight of the worship on the fourth Sunday of Advent for me was the children's story. Well, actually, after the children's story when the storyteller asked four of the children to ask someone in the congregation to light one of the Advent candles. Children calling adults' attention to the Advent candles? How appropriate. Really, it is the children that see more than adults do, pointing out the unexpected, speaking the unspoken, asking the unasked questions. When is it that we stop being children to unconditionally follow the norms of society at all kinds of costs?