Advent Week 2: Blessing one another on the journey


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:



Christmas is coming… will you be ready?

As the shelves in stores quickly fill with Christmas decorations, kitchen gadgets, and toys galore, we are reminded that Christmas is coming. Although there is plenty of time before the Christmas season begins, our culture is sending the message to start getting ready NOW.

The Christian faith holds numerous stories about waiting, anticipation, and getting ready. Our ancestors had to wait a very long time for the coming of Christ. The Holy family, shepherds, and wise men went on a very long journey to find the Christ child. Our faith stories remind us that while it is hard to wait and to journey on long difficult roads, these times present us with an opportunity to pay attention to how God is moving in and through us and others as we travel towards Bethlehem and prepare to greet the promised child. This is what the season of Advent is all about- getting ready, waiting, anticipating, and looking forward to the birth of our Savior- Jesus Christ, Emmanuel.

As we wait, our culture provides us many opportunities to get swept up into the chaos of the season and the whirlwind of holiday preparation. Advertisements flood all media including TV, radio, internet, billboards, in-store advertising, and the list continues. If you Google “top toys Christmas 2014” your search results will include 290,000,000 websites you can surf as you try to navigate your Christmas list planning. Families are the audience to the constant streaming of marketing campaigns that encourage them to want, buy, and spend more. Children create lists for Santa and people ask the question: “What do you think you will get for Christmas?”

Shepherds journey

All the while, somewhere… in the distance… quietly playing we hear: “O Come, O Come Emmanuel, and ransom captive Israel…” We remember the journey of our ancestors, how they waited, prayed, struggled, cried, begged, and continued forward with hope. The drone of this familiar Advent hymn pulls us out of the media whirlwind and gives us an opportunity to take a deep breath as we picture Abraham, Sarah, Job, Isaiah, and many others all journeying to the places God called them. We take another breath and the winds of chaos begin to die down as we see the Holy family, the shepherds, and the wise men journeying to the manger. Our focus is brought back to the star that shines above the stable calling us to hear again the words that came to Joseph in a dream:

“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”

which means, “God is with us.”

Journeying to Bethlehem

Our bodies respond slowly as we put one foot in front of the other and begin our journey towards the manger, holding hands with the children who come alongside us, bringing only the essentials that we can stand to carry on our backs. We move towards the star for we know that lying in that manger is the promised Child, God’s beloved son, who comes to set us free- free from chaos, free from the busyness of the season, free from the overwhelming stress brought on as we try to keep up with our culture. In that moment we are grounded once again in the Word, the Promise, and the Call- and we receive the peace that only God can give as we continue towards the manger preparing our hearts to welcome the child that waits for us. And we hear: “Christmas is coming- how are you and your household getting ready?

This question guides each of us, no matter our age, through the Advent and Christmastide season. There are many ways to get ready and many tools that help us on this journey.

  1. Pay attention: Invite families to pay attention to how they give and receive Christ’s love during the Advent season. Then encourage all members of the family to write, draw, or create something for each family member to give on Christmas Day that shares how that person showed them Christ’s love during the Advent season. Families might want to create a special time to share these gifts and affirmations, concluding with a family prayer: “Thank-you God for our family, thank-you for all these good gifts that help us know you better. Bless and protect our family this Christmas season and throughout the New Year.”
  2. Take Time and Wait: Advent is about waiting. It is hard to wait. Encourage families to talk about and share what makes waiting hard. Invite them to think together on things they can do during this time of getting to stay focused on God, sharing God’s love, and feeling the peace that only God can give.
  3. Do Holy Work:
    1. Wonder: Invite families to wonder together during the Advent season. When a person points to an item and says I “Want” that- use this as an opportunity to ask: “I wonder why you want that?” “I wonder what you would do with it?” “I wonder if this was the only gift you ever received if you would want this item or something else?” Encourage children to create a list of their wants and then as you get closer wonder with them about which items they truly “want,” “need,” or would like to give to someone else.
    2. Worship together: Encourage families to worship together at least once a week. After the service invite them to reflect together as they share their favorite parts, their least favorite parts, and one moment they want to remember.
    3. Serve together: Invite your congregations and families to share God’s light by serving together.
      1. Organize an all church Advent project that invites all persons to help other people. Ideas include: adopting a family and inviting persons in the congregation to give items for a Christmas meal or wrapped gifts to go under the family’s tree. Invite families to shop together, have children help with the shopping list as families decide what to give another family in need. Children can help wrap gifts and make ornaments for shut-ins, a local retirement center, friends, neighbors, and family.
      2. Encourage families to participate in a family Advent Invite children to help brainstorm ideas and ways to share the light of Christ with others.
      3. Practice a 1:1 giving discipline: As children start to create their own lists encourage them to write next to every item what they “want” an item they want to “give” or a person they want to “share God’s love with.” Encourage all family members to give/donate one item for every gift received.
    4. Bless Each Other: Take time this advent season to bless each other. Invite families to write notes, letters, and/or make cards telling their family members hoe they feel- reminding their family members that they are a blessing, a gift from God.

A special note about Language: So often the language surrounding children throughout the Christmas season is about receiving. Children create lists for Santa. People ask: “What do you want for Christmas?” When the gifts are opened the follow-up question becomes: “What did you get for Christmas?” This Advent, encourage your congregations and families to change their language to be about giving and sharing Christ’s love with others. Ask: “How are you getting ready for Christmas?” “Who do you want to share God’s love with?” “How will you share God’s love with others?”

May God bless you, your families, and your congregation this Advent Season.

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