Tag Archives: Emmanuel

Advent – Week One HOPE

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace.  Romans. 15:13

     Wow, it’s hard to believe! Thanksgiving 2018 is now history, and we’ve entered the Christmas season.

     If you know me well, you know I love everything Christmas. The sights, the sounds, the scents of the season fill me with excitement—and, I admit, sometimes, exhaustion.

     In my non-liturgical faith tradition, little emphasis was placed on Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. Last year, I decided to download an Advent devotional, which I read daily until December 25th. Ironically, our pastors also chose to place emphasis on Advent, and each Sunday lit a candle on an Advent wreath.

     I loved my newfound dimension of Christmas, delving more deeply into the sacred meaning of the holy season. I determined to learn more about the liturgical tradition and wanted to create an Advent wreath for our home this year.

     During December, I will be placing emphasis on Advent in my personal devotions and in the Listening on the Journey… blog posts. Each week, my focus will be on traditional themes of Advent:

     Week One, the candle, known as The Prophets’ Candle, symbolizing HOPE;

     Week Two, The Bethlehem Candle, symbolizing FAITH;

     Week Three, The Shepherds’ Candle, symbolizing JOY;

     Week Four, The Angel’s Candle, symbolizing PEACE.

     On Christmas Eve, we’ll have our two young grandkids light a fifth, taller candle, which will be symbolic of Jesus.

     The Jewish nation hoped and waited for a savior for a very long time. More than 700 years before the birth of Jesus, the prophet, Isaiah, foretold their Messiah’s birth,

Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

The ancient Christmas hymn, O Come O Come Emmanuel summarizes beautifully the hope of the prophets:

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.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny
From depths of Hell Thy people save
And give them victory o’er the grave
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

     The first week of Advent focuses on the HOPE of Christmas—the arrival of Immanuel (also spelled Emmanuel) through the mystery of the incarnation.

Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. Strip away the season’s hustle and bustle, the trees, the cookies, the extra pounds, and what remains is a humble birth story and a simultaneously stunning reality — the incarnation of the eternal Son of God.

This incarnation, God himself becoming human, is a glorious fact that is too often neglected, or forgotten, amidst all the gifts, get-togethers, pageants, and presents…[1]

     In Thursday’s post, I will focus further on the importance of the hope of Emmanuel in our lives today. Until then,

Blessings as you ponder the mystery of the incarnation and the hope of Christmas…

Sue Reeve

  1. Joseph Scheumann, www.desiringgod.org/articles/five-truths-about-the-incarnation

Listening to God’s Voice…My ‘Rule of Three’

     The other day I spoke with a woman who’s transitioning from being an acquaintance to friend. She told me she’s trying to become more attentive in listening to God’s voice. My new friend—a very smart lady who graduated from a prestigious university—is in the early stages of “listening” with her spirit. In the process, trust is growing as she becomes more familiar with the voice of the Spirit—a voice she most likely wasn’t taught about in the ‘prestigious’ university she attended.

     My experience with spiritual listening is that it’s a process, which begins with small steps of obedience. The more I say, “Yes!” and take little steps of faith that probably won’t have major repercussions, the more I become attuned to the voice superseding my own human thoughts and logic. My small “Yeses,” to God prepare me for future “Yeses” that will have much more significant consequences—may even carry the potential for risk. (Can you hear the “Yikes!” coming from a woman who likes to play it safe?)

     In my last blog post, (Listening to God’s Voice…Do You Hear What I Hear?) I mentioned two spiritual listening litmus tests that help guide me.

     First, what God says to me must not contradict scripture. I covered this point in a previous post.

     Secondly, it’s important to seek confirmation from trustworthy resources when I believe the voice of the Spirit is speaking. I like to follow a ‘rule of three.’

     The ‘rule of three’ has seemed especially significant the past couple weeks.

     You’re probably familiar with the story of Jesus, Martha and Mary (See Luke 10:38-44). I am the quintessential Martha. My “best”—or perhaps “worst”—Martha surfaces during the Christmas season. As I told you recently, I love everything Christmas. It’s awfully easy to allow so many ‘to-do’ distractions bury the significance of the Advent Season in busyness.

     Shortly before Thanksgiving this year, a voice within began cautioning me about my tendency toward becoming much too distracted by all the activity of Christmas. I was listening rather passively until three back-to-back devotional readings—all from different sources—addressed the story of Martha. This confirmation convinced me the cautionary voice in my spirit was indeed the voice of The Spirit. I knew I would do well to heed that voice.

     For starters, I’ve decorated the house far less this year.

     Entertaining will be simple—perhaps serving guests homemade soup, salad, crunchy bread and a fuss-free dessert with coffee. Instead of worrying so much about preparations, I want to focus more on meaningful conversations.

     Each day I plan to read an Advent devotion reminding me this is the season when Emmanuel—“God with us”—came to a weary world in order to show humankind the exact likeness of God.

     Of Martha, Richard Rohr says, “Martha was everything good and right, but one thing she was not. She was not present—not present to herself, her own feelings of resentment, perhaps her own martyr complex, her need to be needed. This is the kind of goodness that does no good!” Then, of Mary, Rohr says, “Jesus affirms Mary, ‘who sat at his feet listening to him speak.’”[1]

     This Christmas season, I am determined to diminish my ‘Martha-ness,” and be more like Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus, “listening…”

     As I was writing the final paragraph of this blog post, I received a message from my friend and ‘listening’ sister-of-the heart, Cindy. With her permission, I’m sharing a slightly edited version of her message. I’m sure it will encourage and challenge you even as it does me.

     “I want to be intentional this Christmas. I want to honor God, be His light, and give love…all of this from an overflowing heart, not from a rushed, drained, stretched-to-the-limit mentality.  

     Sunday, I heard God’s still small voice!! I like to go to church on Saturday night, and I did. At 8:34 a.m. Sunday, while still in my Christmas p.j.’s, it seemed God was telling me to go again. I knew if I hurried, I could make it to 9:00 church. Believe it or not, I was in my favorite seat, WITH MAKEUP and free church coffee in my hand by 8:56. Little did I know when I said YES to that still small voice at 8:34…that in less than 24 hours God would have used me 3 times to love and support others. 1) My friend was going through “it” and needed prayer for her relationship with her daughter. 2) Another friend who became a widow this year cried in my arms after church. 3) A friend told me about a young woman with two little children who has brain cancer, and we devised a way to help this young mom and her family through a raffle at a women’s tea this coming Saturday.”

     Cindy concluded. “Yeah, listening [with the heart] stretches the “Am-I-crazy?” button a bit, but WOW, how it fills us with wonder when we listen – God uses us to get his work done! Amen!”

A beautiful wreath displayed on the Coeur d’Alene Resort-by R.Reeve

Listening to God’s voice—A great way to end the year!

Thank you, Cindy! To all my reader friends, I’m praying as I close that God will use you in some small (or even BIG) way this Advent season to be God’s way of getting His work done!

Sue Reeve

  1. Richard Rohr, OFM, Center for Action and Contemplation, November 22, 2017