Archives: Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway? #9
New Years Alternatives
A Calendar Through Advent and Christmas
The Christian New Year begins with ADVENT. Advent tends to be a time of doing, even stressful doing... scurrying, shopping, worrying. Try some new doing this season... Waiting, Preparing, Anticipating, Walking, Receiving, Living, Sharing.* Watch for these themes on this calendar.
Go through the calendar with at least one Advent Partner, face-to-face or by phone... a friend or someone you want to get to know better... someone for support. And if a partner is a child, an adult can help teach and serve as a role model. Choose a cause or organization to support with money you collect while using this calendar. Decorate a can top hold the money. Give $1 for each day you read the calendar without your Advent Partner.
Dec. 1 Sunday - Waiting in Hope* Pray, "God of Hope, open our hearts this week to all the ways you surprise us with Your presence. As we prepare for Messiah to dwell in our lives, strengthen us with patience. Amen."
+2 Monday. Jesus birth was a sign of hope for a people who were oppressed. Jesus' coming of continues to be a sign of hope for people who are poor and outcast. Who among us are in need of hope? Select your cause for Advent support today.
3 Tuesday. Jesus' birth comes as a surprise. . . God's surprise while people were waiting for the Messiah. Look for ways that God surprises you while you're waiting. Give 25¢ for each one you find today.
4 Wednesday. Be a surprise to someone else while you're waiting. Greet those around you while waiting in line at the grocery store. Share a beverage with someone while waiting for a train. Send a note or make a call of appreciation to a teacher, to a legislator, or to a business that promotes an appropriate understanding of Christmas. Sincerely compliment someone new.
5 Thursday. We are a society that does not like to wait. Wanting quick results can cause stress. Counter that stress by doing projects, especially with children, that take time, such as planting seeds. Plant a Jesse tree (lilac bush) now and it will blossom by Christmas. Cover it with Old Testament symbols.
+6 Friday. Christmas is a time of hope. Some hope for that special present. Others hope that everyone will just get along. Still others hope for time to relax. What are your hopes for this Advent season?
7 Saturday. Waiting can be stressful. . . or a relief. Give 10¢ for each potentially stressful wait that you turn into a relief. . . at a stop light, picking up passengers. Look for surprises while waiting. . . children playing, busy animals.
+8 Sunday - Preparing in Confidence* Pray, "O God, guide me to prepare myself and my world for the coming of Jesus. Give me the strength to make rough places smooth, to lift up those who are fallen. Amen."
9 Monday. Preparing for Christmas can be a time of great ups and down's. Make the rough times in your life smoother by maintaining a routine, by refusing to over-extend yourself, by eliminating some seasonal stressors.
10 Tuesday. Think about who's carrying most of the load for your preparations. Re-evaluate and talk about family and personal traditions and habits. Share the duties that you as a family decide to keep.
11 Wednesday. What word of comfort do you need to hear amid the December chaos? The Israelites were returning to a destroyed Jerusalem. God says to us, as to them, "I'm with you amid your disaster."
+12 Thursday. Write down all of the things you do to prepare for Christmas - making gift lists, baking, learning the music for the Christmas program at church. Give 5¢ for each item on your list. Are there other ways you can "prepare the way of the Lord"?
13 Friday. Take another look at the list you made Thursday. Are there items you could cross off the first list? What items left on the list could be simplified? Shared?
14 Saturday. Isaiah is helping prepare the people to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. What in our lives needs rebuilding, reorganizing. . . relationships, priorities? What old habits need changing? Choose one. How can changes happen gradually so that they "take"? We can emulate God's way of gentleness with ourselves and others.
15 Sunday - Anticipating with Eagerness* Pray, "Creator God, we need help as we struggle to integrate our faith and our living. Let us look with joy to the coming year as a new chance to live as Your faithful child. Amen."
+16 Monday. Read Luke 4:18-19. Write down some ways you can, like Jesus, reach out to the downtrodden and oppressed. Give 10¢ for every idea on your list. Follow through on one of your ideas this week.
17 Tuesday. John the Baptist "walked his talk." He was a non-conformist, a "voice in the wilderness" -- a lonely job. One of the tenets of Voluntary Simplicity is to "non-conform freely." In what ways can you "walk your talk" by non-conforming, especially in preparing for Christmas?
+18 Wednesday. It is just one week till Christmas. Set aside 15-30 minutes each day between now and December 25th to reflect on the meaning of the season.
19 Thursday & 20 Friday. Sometimes we do things to try to vindicate our guilt. Singing carols at a nursing home, for example, may seem to help purge bad feelings about a shopping addiction. In what ways can we do good for the sake of others rather than to vindicate ourselves? Touch or hug the people at the nursing home. Commit yourself to coming back to see them again before next Christmas.
21 Saturday. We want to control the way our gifts are used. How can we "turn it loose," anticipating that our gifts will be used worthily? How can we understand that all humans are imperfect and trust that God's love will prevail?
22 Sunday - Walking with Us in Love* Pray, "God of love, as You love us in forgiveness and newness each day, bless us to do the same. Open our eyes to see You in each person we look t this day. Help us make that part of our daily walk. In Jesus' name, Amen."
23 Monday. We're on journey with God. Greed is not a part of God's itinerary. In what ways does the commercialization of Christmas impose greed in our lives and tempt us to try to change God's itinerary? To get off God's path? To walk elsewhere. . . on a different path?
24 Christmas Eve & 25 Christmas. - Receiving in Joy* "Tis better to give than to receive" could also read "Tis easier to give than to receive." Some adults have trouble receiving without returning the favor, without feeling indebted. Receiving humbles us. We may feel weak, even helpless. Jesus came for us freely. We respond by serving, not to repay but out of gratitude and thanks. How many ways can we receive with thanks? For example, some find it hard to receive a compliment without a response of self-deprecation or a hollow compliment in return. Such responses label both the gift and the recipient unworthy. A simple "Thank You" is far better than "It was nothing."
+26 Thursday. Unfortunately, when Christmas day has past, many offer a sigh of relief, glad that next Christmas is 364 days away. Remember one joyful thing that was a part of your day yesterday. Give thanks to God.
27 Friday. Part of the difficult job of receiving is the express our needs so that they can be met. Expressing needs opens us to being seen as needing help and also to the possibility of rejection. If you do not normally eat at a Soup Kitchen, eat a meal there, not as a server, but as a guest.
28 Saturday. The Holy Innocents. From very early in its history, the church set aside this day to remember the massacre of children in Bethlehem by Herod's jealousy of the new born King of the Jews. Mary, Joseph and Jesus escaped to Egypt. Thousands of others did not. Think of the vulnerability of children today. Consider organizing a letter writing campaign on behalf of hungry children. Volunteer at a local shelter for abused women and children. Pray for children at risk.
29 Sunday - Living with Grace* Pray, "Humble us to celebrate all that we have been given. Humble us for service to all who are in need. Humble us to give thanks for all that you have made us to be. In Jesus' name, Amen."
30 Monday. Since Jesus has come, God accepts us. We can accept ourselves. Think about how you can celebrate how blessed and gifted you are. Make a Top 10 List of your talents. Be specific.
+31 Tuesday. Make a New Year's resolution to let Jesus' love shine through you. Choose one way you can do this. Resolve to smile more, to spend an hour a week with a child or elderly person, to offer compliments and thanks more readily, to volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc.
Jan. 1 Wednesday. God has made us special. God intends for us to use our talents for others. Choose one of your talents from your Top Ten List from Monday and find a way to use it in a new way this year.
2 Thursday. Knowing that God has forgiven us, we can forgive ourselves when we do stupid things. Give 10¢ for each thing you think of that you have not forgiven yourself for - big or small. Now pray for courage and insight to help you "let go" and forgive yourself.
3 Friday & 4 Saturday. Like Isaiah, sing the praises of those who uphold righteousness. Sometimes we ridicule those who do what we know is right. Sing their praises until you're heard, refusing to demean those who do good. Direct, positive words are far more effective than a condescending or critical response. "I think she's a fine person" or "I thank God that he was in charge of that job" are simple and to the point.
Likewise, intercede when those who do good put themselves down or refuse your praise and thanks. Humility does not discount appropriate praise. A simple "Thank you" is far better than "It was nothing," "Praise God" better than "Don't mention it."
5 Sunday - Sharing Our Treasures* Pray, "We are gifts of grace because You have called us Your own."
+6 Monday. The magi shared treasures with baby Jesus. How can we share our treasures - time, money, skills - with those around us? Give the money in your "giving can" to the organization you chose to support.
*These themes correspond to the reflections based on liturgical cycle B by Tom Sine in the 1996 edition of Whose Birthday Is It, Anyway?
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