Sunday, 22 December 2013

Some Advent Reflections

Some Advent Reflections

At the beginning of Advent we almost always have a short break of a few days or a week. Over the years this break has allowed us the time to write Christmas cards, buy Christmas presents or even do a little bit of preparation for some of the forthcoming services. But above all it allows us some time to rest and gather our strength before the full force of the demands of the season breaks upon us.

For many years we spent the time at Crieff Hydro. One year Jane was not free to take time out and I spent a week in the USA! But these last two years we have had a timeshare week at the beginning of December which has suited us well now that we have a dog, and it also allows us to do a lot of walking and to entertain friends and family.

This year I found myself sharing some daily Advent reflections and lessons on facebook during these few days. People were kind enough to comment positively on them and so now – as Advent is about to break into Christmas celebration – I thought I would review them, edit out the ones that were only relevant at the time, and share them via my blog.

Happy Christmas to everyone!

Advent lessons learned...

1. Even if it is raining and the dog is clearly tired he STILL needs/wants a LONG walk
2. Winning at Scrabble does not ensure unadulterated joy or even congratulation
3. Some discussions are best avoided
4. Facebook is not the best forum for a complex and nuanced debate. Too often serious discussion on that forum seems to lead to grief.
5. No matter how carefully you give directions, satnav will always get your invited house guests completely lost
6. I am no longer so sure that it really is better to have tried and failed than not to have tried. Some discretion needs to be injected into that equation!
7. The night sky on a clear night far from city lights is utterly awesome!
8. God is still God, and the waiting and longing for the Coming Day still stirs in my heart a bitter-sweet yearning. Your kingdom come!
9. Our dog is no longer scared of the water, but remains a little nervous of other dogs.
10. Scotland is beautiful in every season and we are truly blessed to live in the midst of such beauty.
11. I SO enjoy having my family around and today was great with 
Iain Denniston and Ruth Jane Denniston, but REALLY missed Graeme Denniston, wish he had been here and look forward to us all being together again at Christmas.
12. You cannot win every Scrabble game.... but I will settle for most !
13. Every day really is a new day, and yesterday is gone... we confess our sins, ask for forgiveness, turn from our mistakes, and face the future in faith and with hope. That feels pretty good to me.
14. God's promises cannot be thwarted and though we may yet have to wait, still they will be fulfilled... of that I felt deeply reassured in the course of today.
15. I need to keep being reminded that neither 'growth' nor 'success' are necessary indicators of faithfulness... and that it is faithfulness to which God calls me, and I can be too readily tempted by the false gods of success and 'relevance'.
16. Most of all, an overwhelming sense of being truly blessed in so many ways. I am deeply, deeply grateful. Thank you God.
17. No matter how inspiring or insightful a thought or an idea may seem, until it is subject to critical scrutiny it cannot yield its full fruit (or be exposed as an imposter!). 
18. With time to reflect, I am discovering aspects of my personality and behaviour that need some attention...
19. Dogs can bring out the best in human beings and are often catalysts for human encounter.
20. When the wild winds blow, we have an instinctive urge to huddle in safety. But is it not then that Jesus calls us – as he called Peter – to step out of the boat and into the storm...?
21. No matter how well-intentioned an offer of help may be, it is best to check out if it is really what is wanted by the person one is seeking to help.
22. Lighting candles in the power cut was a reminder that such means of illumination were essential in the ancient world and not simply decorative as they are today. Jesus, Light of the World.
23. There is a real release in being snowed in / cut off / without power / denied mobile phone and internet access. Somewhere in it all there is a liberation, alongside a longing for restoration and – above all - a concern for those who utterly depend upon power provision.
24. Those great people who make a real difference and leave a huge mark on the world often have to travel long and suffer much. RIP Nelson Mandela. Respect.
25. Plan as you will, but your plans may well have to be adjusted or abandoned when bigger forces come along (so, thanks to the weather, Iain and Ruth do not return to Edinburgh until tomorrow and we have not been able to entertain friends here at Nethy as hoped for and planned)
26. The life and struggle and achievement of Nelson Mandela are an inspiration, example and challenge to us. Do we achieve so little because we risk so little, because we won’t pay the price, because we compromise so readily?
27. Even on holiday there is not enough time in a day to do all I would like. Perhaps I just need to learn to accept that!
28. ‘Truth and reconciliation’; what a wonderful, visionary and courageous (not to say effective!) way of healing divisions and uniting a nation.
29. I sense that these are important days for me... God re-shaping my attitudes and priorities? I must learn more from the priorities, ministry and approach of Jesus.
30. If you think something positive about someone, you should say it (if it is appropriate!) and not just think it.
31. If something is lost, don’t despair, it is worth looking for and may be found (lost the dog’s lead in a forest car park deep with snow... today we went back and some kind person had found the lead in the snow and hung it up on the fence)
32. Our wonderful dog is doing not too badly in terms of behaviour (having watched one of a similar age in a car park who behaved appallingly!)
33. On a long journey we need to stop from time to time to rest, to be refreshed and to be relieved (!). We are on a long journey as we follow Jesus on the path of discipleship and wait for the coming day. We need to stop form time to time to rest in his presence and be refreshed by his Spirit.

That said, we press on and do not give up on the journey. (See Philippians 3: 12-16 and Hebrews 12: 1-2)