A Christmas Haiku

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Today is Monday, December 11th

Light two purple candles.


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Today, let’s be different. You might remember the ancient form of poetry called Haiku. Simple words, three lines, 17 syllables in the form of 5-7-5. It simply frames moment in time. You pause, reflect on something, and put it into a few words. As a fun challenge today (and all week please!) write a Christmas haiku. Or, while waiting in line at the store, or in traffic, notice what’s going on around you and write a haiku about what you see.

Play along. It’s fun and we are fun people. Post your results! Here are samples:

A Christmas Haiku

            Holy infant's born (5 syllables)
            in Bethlehem of Judah (7 syllables)
            His name is Jesus (5 syllables)

A Traffic Haiku

            Cars lined up for miles
            Drivers trying to get home
            Stop! Now go! Repeat


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The challenge is set. It's all about stopping and being present in the present. Setting down the lists and the phone and seeing what's around you. Observing the ordinary. Interacting in the immediate. 

Don't miss the moment. 

And when you pick up your phone again, send us your Haiku. Or post to Facebook or Instagram using hashtags #CSPConspiracy #ChristmasHaiku. 

Back to the Beginning...

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Today is Sunday, December 10th, the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Light two purple candles.


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Take time for an Advent Conspiracy reboot.

Make a plan to worship fully, give more, spend less, and love all this week.


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Read Read John 1:1-3

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [ESV]


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God of majesty and power
Who spoke and this world was
Who breathed and this world lived
Who counts the hairs upon our head
Who sees our thoughts and reads our hearts
Who loves us more than we deserve
How can we not bring today our sacrifice of praise?
For in the child at Bethlehem
Lies the promise of intimacy
With a Savior who would die even for me
And the promise of an eternity
In which to praise You more each day
God of promise we praise Your name, Amen


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: 

Coming soon...

The Family Tree

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Today is Saturday, December 9th

Light one purple candle.


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Sketch your family tree and think about how each member brings something special. If you could pick one famous person to be in your family tree, who would it be? Why? If you have multiple people in your household, can you agree on someone


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Read Isaiah 11:1-2, 10

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

In that day the root of Jesse, who shall stand as a signal for the peoples—of him shall the nations inquire, and his resting place shall be glorious.[ESV]


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Father God, prepare our hearts not only for the celebration to come, but also for sharing that Good News with friends, family and work colleagues should opportunity arise. Grant us courage and a real willingness to talk about the love that came down to earth and walked among us. Amen.


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

Today's thoughts come to us from Fr. Craige:

As I read today's devotion, I thought about my family tree. In my family, my mother was an only child and my father had one brother. My grandfather had brought his family to El Paso from Canada with the railroad and by the time I came along, there was only my family and my aunt and uncle's family. There are 5 of us siblings and I have 5 cousins. By Yonges Island standards we were an extremely small family. As I reflect on my family tree today, I have my own three children, two lovely daughters-in-law, and four precious grandchildren. My siblings have several children and grandchildren, my cousins likewise have children and grandchildren. We're still pretty small compared to families here, but we've grown tremendously in my lifetime.

I suspect the rector should obviously want to have Jesus in my family tree, and we already do! What a blessing it is to know that. But I suspect the question is looking for someone who is not already in my family tree. And then I begin to wonder why would I want someone, would it be because of something missing in my life? Would it be to have some gift or talent I wish I did have that they would obviously passed down to me? 

I know, I'm possibly evading the question, but honestly, as I reflect the only person or people I would want to add to my family are the  people who i've come to know and love within the Church, the body of Christ. And here too, they already are my brothers and sisters. 

 

What a Difference a Year Makes

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Today is Friday, December 8th

Light one purple candle.


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Think back to last year. What was going on in your life? How does this year feel different?


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Read Isaiah 9:2-5

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
    and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
    as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
    when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
    you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
    the bar across their shoulders,
    the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
    and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
    will be fuel for the fire. [ESV]


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Lord, how wrong I have been to act as if Christ had never been born. As if He didn’t perform miracles. As if He didn’t take my every tear, my daily worries, my sin and insecurities on that cross. As if the tomb wasn’t empty and the throne wasn’t full of His presence and grace. 

It’s that grace that gives meaning and power to Your promises.

I know that Your Word prevails even when our world turns black.

I trust that Your healing comes in different forms, stages and ways.

I believe that You promised to provide all we need, seeking You doesn’t require physical vision, complete health or a life free of troubles.

But instead, a heart full of devotion and obedience, which I offer You.

No matter how many Advent seasons sweep by, Lord, Your reminders remain the same. Each tear we cry has a purpose. Each trying stage has a divine reason. And in Your capable hands, each icy rain of adversity is transformed into the warmth and sparkle of Your grace. Amen

 

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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

I’m Lynn and I work and worship at CSP. 

Reading today’s devotion and thinking back to last year compared to this year just made me laugh. It is a joke around the office because last year, I was the only full time staff other than the priests and, most importantly, I was the youngest!

We have been so blessed this year with the addition of two full time staff members, Andrew and Tapley, and somehow in the blink of an eye, I became the oldest –ugh. Working alongside two techno savvy, totally creative and energetic people can really make you feel like you have aged much more than a year.  So in my world, a year can make a big difference!!

On the more serious side, Andrew and Tapley are patient with me and give me grace in the office just like Christ does for every aspect of my life. I love the saying 'God loves me just the way I am but He loves me too much to leave me there.' During Advent I purposefully try to slow down to process my spiritual growth for the past year and try not to be disappointed when I haven’t traveled as far as I think I should have. 

The four practices of the Advent Conspiracy have truly made such a difference in my life, just thinking what it means to worship fully makes me appreciate knowing that the Holy Spirit is present each and every Sunday, and I should be so thankful, but then I wonder if I really do acknowledge His presence when I enter the church week after week? I never want to take our triune God for granted. Giving more means I don’t need more money, but to think more of others and not so selfish with my time. Loving all is the most special for me this year because we are able to help the Kramers do something wonderful for children who have nothing, while reaching out to someone who has made a difference in my life but may not know it until I write a personal note and send them an ornament.*

*Lynn is talking about the CSP effort to 'Undecorate the Tree' this Sunday, 12/10. Read more in Fr. Craige's Advent notes from Monday 12/4.

Company's Coming!

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Today is Thursday, December 7th

Light one purple candle.


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What’s the first thing you do when you know company is coming? How do you prepare for the arrival of guests?


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Read Psalm 51:10-12

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit. [ESV]


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Consider this quote today:

“One of the essential paradoxes of Advent: that while we wait for God, we are with God all along, that while we need to be reassured of God’s arrival, or the arrival of our homecoming, we are already at home.”


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

My name is Andrew Cannell and I am the youth minister at Christ-St. Paul’s. It does not take too long for people to know two things about me. First, that I am obsessed with Batman and, secondly, that I am a slob. It is this latter fact that will help you understand my struggle.

Living in a dorm and on my own has not helped me in the cleanliness department. Do not get me wrong, I have always been messy, but now I do not have anyone holding me accountable for my clutter. I can merely live in my filth. That is until I get a phone call that my mom will be coming to town. My heart sinks as I think about the years’ worth of cleaning that I will be working on in the coming weeks. I start working through the pile of dishes, scrubbing all the counters, and swiffering (or whatever the verb to use a Swiffer is) to try and get my house to my mom’s standards. Well, Rome was not built in a day and that seems more realistic than getting my house cleaned up. Alas, I typically do not meet the standards that my mom desires. While there is hope that one day I will clean my house to my mom’s satisfaction, there is no hope that I can clean up my life to the Lord’s specification. That is the Good News!

I think we can wrongly look at Advent as the time we need to get our acts together for the Lord to come. We falsely believe that by reading our Bible more, eating at Chick-fil-A, and just cleaning up the messiness of our lives that God will be pleased with our dwelling and want to live inside of us. That is not the story of the Psalmist. The Psalmist reminds us that it is not us who cleans our hearts but it is God who instead of rejecting us, makes a home in us. The reason we can Worship Fully is that we can take the time to stop trying to fix ourselves and take a look at the work that Jesus has already done. Believe me, I find a lot more beauty when I stop looking at myself and instead take the time to look at God.

 

A Different Path

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Today is Wednesday, December 6th

Light one purple candle.


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What do you NEED this year? Consider this quote:

“God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. …we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet.” (Ann Voskamp)


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Read Matthew 20:28

...The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. [ESV]


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As streets fill with shoppers, bright lights and tempting offers,
Christmas songs and children’s laughter, You lead us along
             a different path to a desert river and a Prophetic voice
A call to repentance, a call to service, a call to immerse ourselves
            in living water that will never run dry
A call to prepare a way in our own lives
             for the Savior of the world to enter in
To know the touch of tender mercy and rest in Your forgiving love
For Your faithful prophets and Your Living Word we give You thanks. Amen.


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

My name is Doug Wheat. I'm a previous member and 'old' friend of CSP.

While reading today’s devotion I was aware of a sensation that I experience only occasionally. That is to suddenly - and unexpectedly - see and experience the Lord in a completely new and different way. This happened for me today as I was reading the quote in the devotion: “God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater …”. 

It may seem obvious on the surface and yet, as I continue to think about it, the depth of these words and the impact it has on my thoughts increases. This is all the more startling (and joyful) to me because I consider myself to be a mature Christian, and yet, I can and do experience God and his gift Jesus Christ in new and different ways. I am guilty of 'boxing' the Lord into thoughts and terms that help me understand the depth and glory of the Lord. But the wonder of God’s Word for me is that, even after reading the same verses dozens of times, a new aspect of God’s character and His goodness, is revealed.

I recently heard someone say that “Joy and hurrying are incompatible”. I’m still considering the full truth of that but the change of heart and mind this invokes in me is certainly true.  That is, “to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time”.  Throughout this day I intend to do just that. To slow enough to appreciate and think about that Gift. To allow the Lord to lead me along a different path and to see others and serve others as a reflection of that Gift.

Getting Directions

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Today is Tuesday, December 5th

Light one purple candle.


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Most families have stories about getting lost while travelling. Most families have one member of the family who refuses to get directions or ask for help. Do you have a story like that?


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Read Jeremiah 10:23

I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
    that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps. [ESV]

 Lord, I know that a person doesn’t control their own life.
    They don’t direct their own steps. [NIRV]

I know, God, that mere mortals
    can’t run their own lives,
That men and women
    don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.
So correct us, God, as you see best. [The Message]


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God of hope
be with us in our Advent journey to the stable and beyond,
be with us in our meeting and in our traveling together,
be with us in our worship and our praying together,
be with us in our Advent journey to the stable and beyond,
our God of hope. Amen


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

My name is Bonnie Rackley, and Christ-St. Paul's has been my home for many years. This is my story about getting lost.

Every week I make a five-hour round trip journey to Aiken, SC to visit my sister who has Parkinson’s disease. I make this trip to capture every minute of precious time we have left before the dementia that is wiping away her life memories completely erases me. Sometimes she knows I am her sister and sometimes she thinks I am her daughter. But that is okay. At least I am still somebody to her.

I don’t mind the trip. In fact, traveling the backroads is a peaceful time for reflection. And the scenery is beautiful: farmer’s fields that are sometimes full of corn, or soy beans, or lately white acres of cotton. The woods are full of trees glowing green in the summer and shining red and orange and yellow in the fall. And for much of the journey, I am the only car on these deserted roads.

I avoid the Interstate at all cost - too many trucks and Nascar driver wannabees. But one must know the way when traveling the backroads, as I found out the hard way. I should have followed the advice I always give my daughters: “Don’t rely on that GPS on your phone. Look at a map first and have some idea where you are headed.” But on my second 'back road' trip, I did exactly what I tell them not to do. I decided to try a different route, one that my GPS assured me was the shortest. So, I plugged my destination into the phone and took off, confident that if I turned down the wrong road, I would be instructed to “make a u-turn when possible” and be back on my merry way.

This logic would have worked just fine if I had not lost my signal about 30 minutes into my trip. In trying to get back to the GPS, I completely lost my stored route and had no signal to access any maps or even make a phone call for that matter. I kept driving, certain I would recognize something from the one trip I had taken before, but as I encountered one unfamiliar intersection after another, I began to panic. And I got mad. I was angry at myself for not having a map, angry at AT&T because I had no signal, angry even at my sister for being so sick that I felt compelled to make these journeys. When the tears began to fall, I knew it was time to pull over and talk to God. I was somewhere in the woods between Hollywood and Aiken and I hadn’t seen a store or gas station for miles. So, I pulled over into a small driveway that led to a freshly plowed field. There, looking out over the field I let the tears empty themselves out and asked God to forgive me for my anger and to help me literally find my way. And the God of hope did just that. I made a right-hand turn at the next intersection and within five miles I found a gas station and a signal.

As I travel the path to the 'stable and beyond' this Advent, I will strive to remember Jeremiah’s words: “I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.” May we all seek God’s directions in our Advent journey this year.

The Road Ahead

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Today is Monday, December 4th

Light one purple candle.


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Do you travel on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? To family? To church? Sketch a map. What kind of terrain you travel on. Do you cross bridges? Highways? Dirt roads?


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Read Isaiah 40:1-5

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord's hand
    double for all her sins.

3 A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
    make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be lifted up,
    and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
    and the rough places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” [ESV]


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Father, just as You sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus, help me to clear the path in my heart, too. Show me the distractions in my life that block me from all-out worship of You this Advent. Lord, I await Your coming! As I celebrate the first Advent – the first coming – I look toward the day where I will see You face to face. I imagine what it will be like. Give me a heart, Lord, that looks for Your coming on a daily basis. Help me to live my life where I'm constantly seeking Your presence. My offering to You today is my righteous life for I know I am only clean because of Jesus. Show me today how I need to be refined, purified, forgiven. Give me the strength to ask for forgiveness and to then change my ways. Amen


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

Today's bonus material coming soon...

The Best Gift

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Today is Sunday, December 3rd, the 1st Sunday of Advent

Light one purple candle.


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What is the best present you ever remember getting?

If you are an adult, what’s the best gift you remember getting as a child?


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Read Isaiah 9:6-7

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. [ESV]


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This is Advent, season of promise. In our worship we prepare for the birth of a baby in a dusty stable in Bethlehem, and remind ourselves that this child will become the Savior of the World who will return again in power and glory to draw all of His children together with songs of everlasting praise. The promise of the baby is also the promise of eternal life to all who believe. God of hope and promise, be with us throughout this Advent season and draw us ever closer as we journey together toward the stable and the birth of Your Son, our Savior. Amen


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Personalize it. How can your thoughts and these readings and prayers help you worship fully, give more, spend less and love all.


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Bonus: Read how members and friends of Christ-St. Paul's are experiencing today's devotion.

My name is Patti Wheat and I am a previous member and long-time friend of CSP. Even though I now live in Nashville, I find once you experience the fellowship of this church family, you never are really separated!

The best Christmas gift I ever remember receiving was a large set of marker pens, encased in their own shiny, plastic case. I was about 10 years old and I’m not sure it was the ‘best’ gift, but it is the one that I remember the most. I can still recall the excitement, and I like to romanticize that my mom might have recognized a creative streak in me, maybe telling me to use my gift, even charging me to go and be creative. Mom’s not around to ask what triggered the gift, or to see what that simple gift inspired in me, but I like to think it was the Spirit of God who inspired her to inspire me.

And so, as I contemplate what to give my loved ones, I pray for that same Holy Spirit guiding, to see something in them that they don’t even see themselves. I, too, may never see the eventual outcome, but I pray for my gifts to be a part of God’s plan for their lives.

I hadn’t made the connection until I thought about this question, but I’m sure it’s no coincidence that as I sit here today, this is the view of my desk.

Some gifts keep on giving!

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How to Use this Guide

 

Follow whatever pattern works for you and your household! This is one simple suggestion for beginning a new tradition, or continuing an existing tradition. It begins with a question to generate thought, a reading, a prayer or quote to absorb, and a challenge to make it personal.

1. Light the candle(s) at dinner with the family (reviewing the day) or coffee in the morning (preparing for the day) or lunch at the office (pausing in the midst of the day.)

2. Read and answer the question. Solo? Write down your answer. A word or two will do. With your household? Make it dinner conversation.

3. Read the given passage in the translation that suits you. Do your best to help children understand the reading, perhaps using the New International Readers Version of the Bible.

4. Read the prayer or quote. If you have multiple people participating, take turns, or read together, or read around the table a line at a time.

5. Look for words or themes that help you live out the four practices: worship fully, give more, spend less and love all. Write down one way to make it personal to you and your household.

#CSPConspiracy

We have a story worth sharing!

In sharing we can encourage each other, inspire each other, and generally take notice of each other. Use the hashtag #CSPConspiracy to post to your social media platform of choice - Instagram or FaceBook or Twitter. Or send an email to Lynn@CSP1706.com and use the subject line CSPConspiracy and we will post it for you.

Our story is worth telling again and again. Go on and tell it!

 

About Advent

 

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for Christmas. The season reminds us of the original waiting by the Hebrews for the birth of their Messiah. Advent also reminds us that we wait for Jesus our Messiah to return from Heaven where he now sits at the Right Hand of God.

The Advent Wreath is a helpful way to mark the days of Advent. There are many elements of symbolism to be found in the tradition, and many themes and readings that help us prepare for the coming of Jesus, walking the tension of repentance, expectation, anticipation and finally, celebration.

The circle of fresh greenery reminds us that God is eternal, the Alpha and the Omega, without beginning or end, and his love for us never ends. The candles symbolize the light of God entering the world through the birth of Jesus. The four candles can remind us of the four centuries between the prophet Malachi and the birth of Jesus. The purple candles remind us of the period of Lent and repentance as we prepare our hearts for Jesus. The pink candle often symbolizes joy. In the midst of waiting and preparation, this candle is usually lit on the third Sunday, reminding us of the joy awaiting us as Christmas approaches.

Since this is a symbolic tradition, there is no set structure, no firm and fast rules. This is a simple guide – a daily question or quote to get you thinking, a verse or passage from Scripture, and a prayer or quote focusing on the Advent Conspiracy themes of worshiping fully, giving more, spending less, and loving all. It can help you and your loved ones mark the days of Advent with a daily practice of intentional thought, and help count down expectantly to Christmas.

We pray you experience the Christmas season in a new, fresh, different way this year.