Who Will We Invite to the Manger?
Advent is almost here. It begins November 30th and ushers in the new liturgical year. Meant to be a season of waiting that prepares us for the coming of Christ, it has for many instead become a children’s story, a soothing tale that is little more than an add-on to the secular celebration of consumption and overindulgence.
It’s time to change that. This is a season that should whet our appetites with a deep longing for the in-breaking of God’s eternal world. It should galvanize us to action, sending us out onto the highways and byways to invite whoever we meet to God’s kingdom feast.
In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, Kenneth Bailey suggests that Jesus’ birth did not occur in a stable but in a family home to which the shepherds, outcasts in their society, and the wise men, unacceptable foreigners, were all invited. He also suggests that the expectations of the Jews for the Messiah to come to Jerusalem was fulfilled instead with the coming of the child Jesus. The great hopes for the city were transferred to the child in a manger and, as a result, all are invited to join the celebration.
Who Will We Invite to the Manger?
One of the reflections in our new resource, A Journey Toward Home: Soul Travel From Advent to Lent, is about the French custom of santons, in which clay models of villagers are positioned around the manger bringing their gifts to the Christ child.
Let’s create our own “santons” this Advent and Christmas season, santons of words, photos, and actions, not figures of clay. Imagine neighbors, family, friends and strangers clustered around the manger together. This concept will be the focus for the Advent/Christmas posts on Godspace, and we hope it will become yours too.
When I first posted this invitation, several people responded with their ideas of where and how they could gather with friends and strangers around the manger in church, in homeless shelters, in refugee camps, on the borders of their country.
Their comments encouraged me to extend a further invitation. I plan to create an Advent Come to the Manger Wreath this year and invite you to do the same.
Do we think there is a place for everyone at the manger? If so, how do we extend that invitation so that the ignored and excluded feel welcome together with our friends and family? Get together with some friends. Plan some gatherings, outreaches and excursions. Follow the instructions and make your own Advent Come to the Manger Wreath. Or better still, send us your stories and photos and we will add them to our wreath.
A couple of weeks ago we launched our new resource, A Journey Toward Home. We are please to announce that this is now available as an e-book: kindle; epub and pdf. Unfortunately both the kindle and pub versions are without the beautiful photos and illustrations Kristin Carroccino collected for the print version.
We have also just uploaded a new free resource guide, Advent/Christmas Resources for 2014, as a compliment to A Journey Toward Home. This guide is drawn from the resource lists I post on Godspace each year, including ideas for Advent and Christmas activities, worship, music, and more. It is oriented toward both families and congregations. We hope that you will find it useful.
Attend the Stop the Madness Retreat
There is still time to sign up for the Stop the Madness pre-Advent retreat on November 15th. Join us for the full day and experience a morning of reflection, contemplation and inspiration that will encourage you to journey toward Christ’s birth with renewed focus and faith. Learn from the rich presentations and reflective insights of fellow participants how to deepen your prayer life and draw closer to God. In the afternoon use the insights and skills from the morning to develop your own spiritual practices for the seasons of Advent and Christmas.
Enjoy Our Extensive Resources for Advent/Christmas
- Each year at MSA we produce an Advent meditation video. Videos from past years can be viewed online, or purchased by in high resolution by download or on DVD:
- In 2013 we also produced a series of podcasts hosted by Christine Sine and Ryan Marsh that you may like to listen to:
- First week of Advent with Tara Ward and Chelle Stearns listen here,]
- Second week of Advent with Aaron Strumpel, Dwight Friesen, and Donna and Jim Mathwig listen here.
- Third Week of Advent with Karen Ward, Tacey Howe Wispelwey and Mary September listen here .
- Fourth Week of Advent with Lacey Brown, and Tom Sine listen here.
- Waiting For the Light: An Advent Devotional
Thank you for being part of the Mustard Seed team. May God bless you as we enter this festive season and prepare to celebrate the birth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Executive Director MSA