For the 1st Sunday in Advent and the Week Following
Happy New Year! Today marks the beginning of the Christian Year. Why is the Christian year different from the calendar year? Because the Christian year revolves around Jesus. It starts with preparing for Jesus’ birth (Advent and Christmas) and is followed by a time of learning and growing (Ordinary Time) before a period of spiritual preparation and cleansing (Lent). This, in turn, prepares us for the death (Good Friday) and resurrection of Jesus (Easter). Easter is a 50-day celebration that ends with Pentecost (from pentekonta, Greek for 50). Another season of learning and growing follows that ends with today—the 1st of Advent.
Where do you find hope? Use the 2017 Advent Unwrapped Hope video to help you reflect on where one would look for hope. The video uses seed and sunrise imagery since both are traditional symbols of Christian Hope. The symbol of the seed is so engrained in the Christian story that our preparatory schools for ministers are called “seminaries,” which literally means a seed plot or nursery. Likewise, the notion of hope coming with the dawn is resonant with a common name for Jesus, the Morning Star.
Play and Ponder
Select one of the following ideas to work with over the course of the week:
- Make a hope jar: fill a jar with images and symbols of hope. Check out the book of Isaiah, which has many evocative images of hope, e.g., flowers blooming in the desert, wolves lying down with lambs, swords being beaten into ploughshares.
- Research symbols of hope in other cultures. For instance, I am Jamaican Canadian, and for me, green is a symbol of hope because it is the colour associated with agriculture on the Jamaican flag. The sun is also a common symbol of hope. We have a proverb: “When cloud shado cum, sun nu set.” (When times are rough, there is always hope.)
- Watch this video about the Paris terrorist attack. At Rendez-Vous 2017, preacher and Christian educator, Rodger Nishioka, shared this video and said “Flowers and candles are more powerful than guns because each flower and each candle represents a person who is saying no to violence.” What brings you hope in times of uncertainty, and what can you do to bring hope to others?
Choose one or more of these prayers for daily use over the course of the week.
Memorize this scripture:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)
(breathe in) I am not alone, (breathe out) I live in God’s world.
The Prayer of Jesus
Graces and Blessings
The following Hot Cocoa Prayer can be used individually or in a group.
- Measure two tablespoons of cocoa powder. Taste it (it’s bitter). Pray for some of the things that are bitter in your life and a little hard to take on their own.
- Measure and add 1–2 tablespoons of sugar/ sweetener. Taste it (it’s sweet). Offer a prayer of thanks for all the things that are sweet in your life and are perhaps best in small doses.
- Add a pinch of salt. Taste it (it’s salty). Offer a prayer for moments of grace and clarity, experiences that bring out the flavour of life.
- Warm some milk (or milk beverage) while reflecting on when you have experienced the Holy in the past day or week. What has warmed your heart?
- Mix warmed milk beverage with hot chocolate mixture. Taste it (it’s yummy). Give thanks to God and enjoy.
(Note: Next week is the 2nd Sunday in Advent, and we shall explore the theme of Peace. Sunday, December 10 is also the United Nations Human Rights Day.)
Waiting with you,
Alydia Smith is Program Coordinator, Worship, Music, and Spirituality for The United Church of Canada.