Making the Most of Advent

- Waiting for the Dawn -

This post brings together resources – music, books & calendars –  for you to use during Advent. It explains how to make the most of the opportunity that Advent affords to receive Christ more fully into our hearts. The blog itself is done as a meditation to slow you down! Read it thoughtfully over the next few days, enjoying the music links as you go. Then decide which resources you would like use during Advent itself, and schedule in 10 minutes or more each day in December to do so. 

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BE STILL

As you begin to read, click on Salt of the Sound’s track, From Afar

…Step with me if you will, in your imagination, through the doors of an old wardrobe… Brush past fresh-smelling fir trees into a frosty forest... Deep snow covers the floor of a land where it is always Winter and never Christmas… Breaking the silence is the sound of tiny water droplets falling from crackling branches... A new day is dawning on the darkened horizon… Aslan is on the move.

The magic of Narnia is ours to rediscover during Advent all over again – startlingly beautiful and infinitely precious. We need to make time each day to be still if we are to prepare room in our hearts for all that Christ has come to do there.

According to John 1:1, Christ’s work starts at the outset of creation. John’s words are echoed in Audrey Assad’s New Every Morning: ‘In the beginning, you hovered over the waters, you broke an unbroken silence, you spoke light into darkness, and there was light.’ Jesus, who was with God and was God, who wraps himself in light, will one day usher in the dawn of the new creation in all his radiant glory. While we wait in expectant hope for his return, he dwells in us by his Spirit and reveals his glory to us in the pages of his Word. If we’re prepared to open our hearts to receive him anew this Advent, we’ll find that God is not far from any one of us.

WAIT

When Christ came to Israel, 800 years after Isaiah prophesied to them about a great light that would come into the darkness, they were expecting the Messiah to arrive with great power and authority. Audrey Assad’s Winter Snow envisages how Jesus ‘could’ve come like a mighty storm, with all the strength of a hurricane… like a forest fire with the power of heaven in his flame’, but instead he came, ‘like a winter snow, quiet and soft and slow, falling from the sky in the night to the earth below.’ Jesus could if he wished sweep into our lives ‘like a tidal wave or an ocean to ravish our hearts… like a roaring flood to wipe away the things we’ve scarred’, but he comes to each of us gently and softly to draw us back to him – if we will let him.

Although John assures us that the light of Jesus shines in the darkness, we often feel as though darkness has overcome our lives. Sometimes we might think that we’re never going to see the light shining brightly again. Salt of the Sound’s Shine So Bright describes a ‘world hopelessly searching for more’, and points to the light that comes into that hopelessness, ‘Like a candle through the shadows Jesus comes, and darkness fades away till it’s gone.’ As you take time during Advent to look at the God who steps down into our darkness, ask him to help you see that light again. Then wait and see how he will reveal himself to you.

Waiting for the Dawn, also by Salt of the Sound, points to the ‘stars still shining for a weary world, and the glimpse of hope in a new and glorious morn’. Ask God today to open your heart to receive him anew, that you would know his glorious hope once more. Pray for Jesus to bring his light and hope into your heart as you light your Advent candles during December.

DWELL

John wrote his Gospel so that we could see for ourselves the glory and grace of God’s one and only Son, Jesus. Tim Chester’s book, The One True Light, provides daily readings from John 1, with accompanying meditations and prayers that will help you dwell in the Word during Advent. Where this volume zooms in on Jesus’ life in the gospel, the readings from Chester’s second Advent volume, The One True Story, zoom out on God’s awesome plan for salvation through human history, from Genesis to Jesus to our lives today.

If books are too expensive for you, or if you’d like to learn how to meditate on God’s word (a thoroughly biblical concept!), you could read John 1:1-18 each day during Advent. Read the passage slowly & thoughtfully; listen intently to what God has to say to you; respond to him in prayer – whether thanks, praise or lament; and finally rest in him – be still and know that he is God. Repeat with the same passage each day, and note down any verses that you might like to learn – and perhaps include in your Christmas cards and emails this year.

Tim Keller’s Hidden Christmas helps us to see, hear and almost touch the Jesus of the gospels, and is a great book to read as a DNA group. You might read four or five pages each day of Advent, and then share together what you’ve discovered over a cuppa, a pint or a mulled wine & mince pie. Listen to Josh Garrel’s The Light Came Down as you decide which Advent book you will read. Rest in the knowledge that God has heard all of your fears and hopes and prayers and comes into our hearts by his Word over time to answer our longings and cast our darkness away. 

MARVEL

The Jesse Tree (referring to the line of David in the Old Testament from which Jesus descends), was a medieval tradition used to tell the story of the Bible from Adam to Jesus. The Littlest Watchman Advent calendar helps young children delight in the arc of this story for the first time. As you share each day’s reading, the calendar doors can be torn off to hang on cut branches and make your own Jesse Tree at home. 

John 1 tells us, ‘To all who receive the light he gives the right to become his children’. You don’t have to have children to marvel at the mystery of God’s plan once more – you are still his precious child! The Thomsons at Grace Church Hartlepool have devised a set of beautiful wooden decorations to hang up each day as you go through their Jesse Tree reading plan. (You can also use these decorations with children in conjunction with readings from The Jesus Story Book Bible). This set is something of an investment, but costs the same as about half a dozen chocolate Advent calendars and lasts a lot longer… And in case I haven’t already pricked your conscience enough, 10% of their profits go to support the work of Bible translation and distribution!

As you rekindle your amazement at God’s plan for salvation, you might just find he is opening your heart to receive his love and light anew. Express your gratitude to him as you listen to Salt of the Sound’s Come Let us Adore Him. Josh Garrel’s Come to Him reminds us that Jesus came to give us peace and that joy shall be our crown. What joy to know that God’s love for you is so great he sent his precious Son to die for you. What peace to come to him with all your heart and lay your burdens down, knowing that Jesus is the one true light of the world – and our only hope.

INVITE

The world did not recognise Jesus when he came, and still does not today. Josh Garrel’s May you Find a Light speaks of, ‘Lost and weary travellers searching for the way to go, heavy-hearted and longing deeply to be known.’ Each of us knows so many people who feel lost, weary, sad or lonely. Jesus knows each of them by name too, every thought on their minds and the longing in the hearts. He is the way they are looking for, and his light is yours to give. Invite your friends and family to join our Redeemer church family for Hog Roast and Carols, that they might see the glory of Jesus’ light come down.

REJOICE

Finally, it will be time to celebrate Christmas. Rejoice with Sojourn’s Glory Be and Joy to the World! The beautiful key changes of these songs take us from darkness to light, from waiting to receiving, from ‘always winter’ to the dawn of Christmas morning.

It is my prayer this Advent that, in the stillness of winter and the darkest month of the year, you will see the Light of Jesus blaze more brightly than ever before and discover a joy more deep than you have ever known.  

Advent 2018


Text Copyright © Elspeth Taylor in conjunction with Redeemer Church Leeds UK. All rights reserved.