Advent Week 2: Blessing one another on the journey

Journey-Mission-Road

Advent is here… and the journey has begun.

As we prepare our own hearts and homes for the mystery of Christmas, we are called to remember the Holy Family- Mary and Joseph alongside a donkey- who made the long journey to Bethlehem together. As we picture the Holy Family- Joseph leading the donkey, Mary sometimes riding and sometimes walking- we recognize the difficulty that comes when we make a long journey. And we, like the Holy Family, move forward in HOPE. Hope for all that is promised in the gift of the Christ child.

As I write this, I wonder:

– What do you hope for?

– What do your children hope for?

– What does the Christ child represent for you?

reaching outLast year, I was challenged by my colleague, Taylor Burton-Edwards, by his call for the church to turn towards each other during this time of Advent: This is a time when adults should turn their hearts to children and children should turn their hearts to adults. In response to Taylor’s words, I found myself asking:

How are we turning our hearts to children and how are we creating a space for and inviting children to turn their hearts towards us?

During this season of advent, we run around- buying gifts, preparing meals, hosting and attending parties, etc. Facebook is full of people sharing their anxiety and stress created by this season. It seems there is so much to do, so little time, and it all can be very overwhelming. It is indeed the season of giving- and yet, as I hear the question, “How are we turning our hearts towards children and inviting   children to turn their hearts to us,” I wonder:

  • When do we stop to look in the eyes of the person we are giving a gift to?
  • How often do we take time to pay attention and listen to the person sitting across from us at the dinner table or the one we find ourselves chatting with at a Christmas party?
  • What would it look like if we took the time to look into the eyes of another, to take their hands in ours, and to offer them a blessing saying: “God loves you and God is with you- I hope you know Christ’s love and feel Christ’s peace during this season of advent.”

A common Filipino tradition to show respect towards elders is called pagmamano. The word mano stems from the Spanish
meaning for hand and pagmamano is the act of either kissing an elder’s hand or raising their hand to touch your forehead.
This act is often done as a greeting or farewell to the elders of the house. By doing it, you are asking for their blessing as well as blessing them.

Advent is here… and the journey has begun. God is calling us to turn towards each other and to journey together towards Bethlehem. This week I want to invite you to take time to bless your children, your friends and family, members of your community, and strangers who you might meet during this advent season.

This can be done through acts of service, compassion, and justice. We live in a hurting world that is crying out for God’s beloved creation to stand up and do something. We are called to bring God’s light into this broken world. This season of getting ready provides a time for us and our families to work together, making a difference in the lives of others this advent season.

Turn towards each other, stop and take time to be present, give thanks, offer a blessing, and always remember and share how God blessed each of us through the birth of his precious son.

Wondering together

I wonder…

  •         Who you are thankful for?
  •         Who you want to bless?
  •         Who has blessed you?
  •         How you can make a difference in your community?
  •         How God is calling you to change the world around you?
  •         Who God is calling you to turn your heart towards?

Practical Application

Getting Ready for the Mystery of Christmas Together

  • Bless your children and those you love every day
    • This can be done in the morning, at bedtime, before they leave for school, or at any other point in the day.
    • This can be as simple or as long as you wish. Take time to look the child in his/her eyes, take their hands, and say something like: “God loves you and God is with you.”
    • You may choose to make the sign of a cross on their foreheads, or on their hand.
    • For more information on adding a Family Blessing to your family ritual check out: Rolf Garborg’s The Family Blessing (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1990).
  • Reach out and bless your community:
    • Serve meals to the homeless
    • Deliver gifts to families who might not be able to afford presents this year.
    • Work with local organizations that are striving for justice and change in your community
    • Support organizations working for reconciliation- seeking to decrease violence, hate, and division.
    • Advocate for the right for all children to grow up in safe environments
    • Advocate for children to have access to quality meals, healthcare, and education.
  •  Participate in 2015 Advent Home Worship
  •  Participate in #PictureAdvent
  • Take time to light your advent candles every day saying a prayer for your family, your church, your community, and the world.

Resources for Church leaders and Families to use this Advent Season:

 

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Wondering Together

questions1

I wonder is a good word (anonymous, age 8).

 Over the last few weeks I’ve had the privilege of journeying with different families as they wrestle with their questions about God. Two of these questions include:

  • Why would God ask Abraham to kill…isn’t that wrong, why would God even ask?”
  • How do I explain the Trinity to my 5 year old?”

As I struggled with how I might respond to these questions, I remembered what children have taught me: Active Wondering and Active Listening are essential steps in faith inquiry, discovery, and growth. These two tools create a space that honors the questions and provides an opportunity for persons to find meaning and value as they seek understanding.

In my PhD dissertation research project, Experiencing God Together, I worked with 28 amazing children who showed me the importance of wondering and listening in our faith journey process. As one eight- year old boy declared, “Wonder is a good word.” Through active wondering and listening we create a space that:

  • Invites all of God’s children to share their stories
  • Affirms every person’s experience of the Holy
  • Supports persons as they wonder, discover, claim, and respond to these experiences of and with God.

It is no wonder Jesus was surrounded by priests, scribes, Pharisees, disciples, and many others who were constantly asking him questions. Questions are an essential part of our learning and living process. When we pay attention to Jesus’ responses we hear how Jesus did not provide straightforward, easy answers, but instead Jesus stopped and honored the process of wondering with his reflections that often came in the form of parables. Jesus’ wisdom provides us with significant insight as we continue the spiritual discipline of asking tough questions, wondering and listening together, and seeking new understanding as an intentional faith community.

We all have questions that drive us into a quest for understanding. It is the questions that lead us into a deeper relationship with the Holy. One question I will never forget- asked of me by a four year old boy- “How do I know I believe in God?” My response, “You know I wonder about that too… maybe we can learn together.”

I am praying for fruitful conversations, new discoveries, and strengthened relationships. Blessings on you and your ministry.

Wondering together

  • I wonder what questions children have asked you?
  • I wonder how you responded to these questions?
  • I wonder what you learned about God in these experiences?
  • I wonder what you wonder about?

Practical Application

How to actively wonder with children and other people in your faith community

  1. Honor the question: (You might choose to say)
    1. That is a really big question
    2. That is a really important question
    3. Note: If you do not have time to engage in a wondering session immediately after the question is asked you might choose to say: “That is a really important question. I need some time to think about it and I wonder if we can wonder together about this…[insert another time/day].” Remember- this is important work- make sure you keep your wondering date and help the child know that you are not just dismissing their question.
  1. Affirm the value of the question (You might choose to say)
    1. This is a big question. I think other people probably wrestle with it too.
    2. You know, I wonder about that too.
    3. That is such a big question many people have wrestled/struggled to understand/answer that question
  1. Remember that there is not always a simple “right” answer

Note: Take time to wonder with the child leaving the conversation open- try to avoid giving concrete answers immediately.

  1. Recognize children have often thought about the question before asking it (You might choose to say)
    1. I wonder what you think?
    2. I wonder what you know?
    3. I wonder how others have answered the question?
    4. I wonder how you might answer the question?
    5. Note: This will help you understand what is behind the child’s question and what thinking he/she has already done.
  1. Research
    1. Ask: I wonder if there’s anything we can read/look up/listen to/watch that might help us with this question
    2. As you research together ask:
      1. I wonder how this helps us answer the question?
      2. I wonder if there is other information that we need?
      3. I wonder where you want to look next?
    3. Note: This “active wondering” process honors the child and creates a space for you to wrestle with the faith together. Sometimes there are not easy answers and we have to work together to form our own understanding.
  1. Conclude this time together by saying
    1. Thank-you you for wondering with me
    2. I now see…(insert your own ah-hahs here)
    3. I wonder what you discovered
    4. I wonder if there are any steps we are missing?
  1. Affirm and Summarize
    1. Note: You can conclude with something that affirms the wondering process or summarizes what you discussed/learned/discovered.
    2. Ex: Thank-you for wondering with me. I love how wonder helps us think together as we grow in our faith and learn more about God, each other, and the world around us.