faith is the reality of what we hope for
Hebrews 11 reminds us, “faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.” At this time of year, the to do list is endless, the bank account is not, and our hearts hope for something more than the kind of goodness stores can provide. This is what Advent hope is all about… a hope for something deeper, fuller, and more meaningful than a life without faith can provide. We can’t see it or buy it. But, we can feel it in our hearts when it is lived out in the everyday.
I felt that kind of hope this afternoon while I watched a fourth grader from our church kindly and gently offer a cup of lemonade to a man experiencing homelessness. It was a genuine act of brotherhood that I wish I had a picture of. I was just too struck by the moment and my eyes were too full of tears to grab my phone and take a picture. As I watched my young friend walk around the converted sanctuary/dining room offering refreshments and the other children and their families serve food out of giant disposable trays, I felt the sincere proof of God’s kingdom coming about. In today’s simple act of serving a meal and eating together, the kids there today will realize a little more fully the needs of those experiencing homelessness in our community. To them, the word homeless now has a face.
There are an endless amount of Advent crafts one can do to bring this season before Christmas into your home. Over the years, I have done so many. But, this Advent celebration has to be my favorite as I think it truly made a difference in the way families at our church will walk into the Advent season. It consisted of serving and eating a meal with those in need in our community, a simple Advent calendar craft, and sharing cookies and a few Christmas carols together.
We started by inviting families at our church to serve a meal to people in need our community. For us, this part was easy as an amazing group of staff and volunteers offer such a meal weekly. So, families signed up and were asked to bring a dozen cookies to share.
After the meal which we all ate together, everyone at the event was invited to make an Advent calendar. The stretch to think of 25 scriptures and free, simple activities which a 5-year-old and someone living on the street could do was tricky. But, seeing them all assemble the craft today was so worth it. In full disclosure, not many of the folks at the meal stayed to make a calendar. But, I was glad that a few did. One of our families even helped a lady who is blind to assemble her craft.
To make the calendar,we printed each scripture/activity on cardstock and gave everyone 25 little envelopes and a keyring. Everyone cut out their own cards and put them in the envelopes. Then, they hole punched and numbered each envelope and put them on a keyring. The idea is to open one envelope a day and follow the instructions.
Here are the ideas. I hope you find them a meaningful way to walk through the Advent season.
dec 1– Read Mark 1:3. ADVENT means ARRIVAL. Prepare for Christ’s arrival and write the dates & times of worship services in your calendar.
dec 2- HOPE- Jeremiah 29:11. Who needs a sign of HOPE? Pray for 3 people in need of the HOPE of faith in God.
dec 3- Read 1 John 3:19. Make a list of people you love and pray for each one throughout the Advent season.
dec 4-Read Micah 6:8. Look up a map of your city. Pray for the parts of your city in need of justice and healing.
dec 5-Read Psalm 46:10. Slow down and be still. Though the world is telling us to rush toward Christmas, slow down and allow time for God. What would help you slow down? Pray about it and do it.
dec 6-Read Isaiah 40:31. What Bible stories or scriptures come to mind when you think of hope? Why?
dec 7- Read Psalm 147:3. Watch or read the news and pray for God’s healing.
dec 8- Read Romans 12:12. Patience is just hard. Where do you need to be more patient? Ask for God’s help to be more patient, loving, and faithful.
dec 9- PEACE. Read Isaiah 9:6. Talk with friends or family about who God is to you. A loving father? A friend? An all-powerful God? A counselor who brings healing? Why?
dec 10-Read Psalm 23. What distracts you from The Shepherd? What would help you follow God more closely?
dec 11-Read Psalm 24:1. Do something today to bring peace and healing to God’s earth. Pick up trash or repurpose something you were going to throw away.
dec 12-Read Hebrews 12:14. Who or what do you need to make peace with today? Take a step towards healing.
dec 13-Read Philippians 4:6-7. Name & pray for a person or situation that needs peace.
dec 14- Read Isaiah 55:12. Listen to or sing Christmas carols today. Let this act bring you God’s peace and joy.
dec 15 Read Matthew 1:23. Immanuel means God with us. Where have you seen God with you this past week? Where have you seen God with the world?
dec 16-JOY-Read Philippians 4:4. The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday or Rose Sunday. Plant or pick a flower and give it to someone who needs joy.
dec 17- Read 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. We receive joy when we do God’s work. Do something to make someone smile today.
dec 18- Read Psalm 16:11. Take a walk down a path today and spend time with God. Listen for God’s words of love.
dec 19- Read Galatians 5:22-23. Have a piece of fruit today and savor the sweetness of knowing God’s love. Share the fruit of the spirit with others.
dec 20- Read Psalm 94:19. What worries you? Talk about them with someone you trust. Give God your worries to hold.
dec 21-Read Romans 12:15. Dec 21 is the longest night of 2018. This time of year can be long and lonely for people who have lost loved ones. Send or give a message of light and love to someone who needs it.
dec 22 Read 2 Corinthians 9:7. Decide what to give Jesus for his birthday this year and give it with joy.
dec 23-LOVE- Read Luke 1:26-56. Listen to Mary’s love and faith in God.
dec 24- CHRISTMAS EVE- Read Luke 2. Spend time in prayer before you go to church today. May you hear and experience God’s love in new ways tonight.
dec 25- CHRISTMAS DAY- Read Matthew 2. Reflect on the gifts of faith you’ve received this season.
Reality says that we fed close to 200 hungry people this afternoon. But, faith and hope look at the same afternoon and know that Jesus was there. Jesus was there with the kids and families serving food together and the people who will go to sleep with full bellies from their meal. Jesus will be there in the many questions and observations kids will have tonight as they digest their experience. Jesus will be there as the children look at the world with compassion as Jesus calls us to do. Jesus will be there as those same kids will hopefully work to put an end to things like homelessness and poverty. That is what Advent hope is all about…the desire to make this world a better place and help everyone to know the love of Jesus.
So, blessings upon your Advent season. May it be filled with the kind of stuff that helps you see hope all around you.