First week of Advent

Today is the first day of Advent. The following format tells us about this practice but can also be used by families or groups, with younger people asking the question and others answering.

What is Advent?

Advent is a tradition of Christians that means "coming" and calls us to live in the tension of how Jews felt while waiting for the Messiah. They waited for Emmanuel, God with us.

What do we wait for?

We're waiting for the return of Jesus, but until he comes, we live expectantly as disciples who seek the light of Christ in a dark world.

Is that why we light candles?

Yes, four candles are lit, one each week. Some people make wreaths with four candles. My family has a block of wood that my sister gave us that says, "Jesus is the light of the world" and has space to put four votive candles. We've lit the first candle with family during Thanksgiving weekend and spoke about Jesus as our light who is coming.

Isn't this just a tradition of men and not biblical?

The return of Jesus is certainly biblical and Adventus is Latin translation for the Greek biblical word, "parousia," meaning second coming. So Advent is both a reminder of how the Jews waited for Messiah and also a reminder that we wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Here are the first two weeks of Advent, and we'll post next two later.

Make an Advent Wreath
Take a shallow bowl and fill with sand or salt and place four purple candles around the edges, or use candle holders. Place one large white candle in the middle. Make a circle of evergreens and place around the bowl or candle holders.

You need a Bible, matches, and you can also use a manger scene. Light one candle during this week’s reflection. The second week, light two, then three the third week and four the fourth. On Christmas Eve, light all and the middle white candle. Set aside some time each week for this short ceremony. Invite those who are alone to join you in worship. Use the telephone to join someone. Gather as a family or with friends.

First week of Advent: Read Isaiah 2:1-5; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44. Waiting for Advent also teaches us to wait for the return of Jesus. Light candle. Pray the Lord’s Prayer together.

Have a Family Meeting. Hold a family meeting to decide what your goals are for the holidays. What are your spending limits? Avoid debt. Put away credit cards.

Draw names. Consider drawing names rather than everyone giving something to everyone else in your giving circle. Set a budget. Don’t buy everything on a child’s list. Don’t rush out and get something for someone just because they got you something or to “equal” what you think they’ll get or to make the number of gifts equal. Consider giving the gift of time, a handmade gift.

Hope in a Bowl. Write down scriptures such as Isaiah 9:1-7 and Jeremiah 33:14-16—ones that announce coming of God’s redemption, Jesus the Messiah—on index cards. Drop the cards in a bowl. In the days leading up to Christmas, when you sit down to eat together, draw out a card and read the scripture.

Idea for 2nd Sunday of Advent – Dec 7
Light 2nd candle.

Read Luke 2:25-26
What is unique about this man?
Read the passage again. What word do you hear repeated. How many times?
Who is this man and what is he waiting for? What are we waiting for at Christmas?

Pray: Say the Lord’s Prayer together.

Do: With your Nativity scene at home . . . What if we hide Wise Men, Shepherds, Jesus until we read that part of the story closer to Christmas, then we put each person in as we read along?

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized

Ron and Gidget

Walmart wanted to build a Supercenter on the property where a bar, car lot, and mobile home park barely existed in the collective conscience of the public. Local councilman Parker Toler called the trailer park, car lot, and bar a “blight area” and most people who drove by everyday never noticed the quarter century old trailer park community. This neighborhood was nearly invisible to the surrounding community.

In 2003, I became friends with Ron and Gidget and a few others in the trailer park. I wanted to know what they thought of being called a blight, wanted to know what would happen to this community when development for the new Supercenter began, wanted to know how any of them could afford the move and would Walmart help them in the enormous task and cost of moving dozens of trailer homes.
How would Walmart developers and the current owner of the land handle this move of a community of people? I’ll telegraph one of the main triumphs of the book–Walmart does some very, very good things, and I can’t wait for you to read the book to find out what they did.

Would anyone even notice the people in the trailer park? Would they have to pay their own way to move to another park? Most of the residents were low-income families who could never afford the several thousand dollars it would take to move their trailers, and some trailers would fall apart if they were moved.

At the time, the largest anti-corporation campaign in the history of mankind was just beginning to rise up against Walmart, which was now drawing fire from environmentalists, protectors of small businesses, labor unions, competitors, and many of its own customers or ex-associates.

There’s more . . . endangerd wildlife seemed to be more of a controversy than moving this community. Whittemore Branch of Old Mill Creek ran through the mobile home park, and Old Mill Creek has been a known habitat for the Nashville Crawfish, an endangered species. Before developing the land, Walmart developers would have to ensure they properly preserved the crawfish and re-established them in the creek and did not upset their habitat. This would become a bone of contention for the project that may have stalled it longer than the specter of moving fifty mobile homes and families.

Here’s one of the first parts of the book I’d like for you to read and let me know what you think. What I’m really after is what you care about in the short piece, what you want to know about Amber from here. This is a true story, but name is changed and this scene is stream of consciousness from a repeated episode in her life, going down to the creek to catch crawdads.

Prologue

On a rock in Mill Creek stands a girl holding a crawdad that wiggles in her hand and tries to reach back and grab her, but she knows where to hold it, just behind the tiny black caviar eyes, her thumb on one side and forefinger down the other side of its hard shelled body.

The crawdads had been here for millennia before Howard Claude bought the land and parked fifty rental trailers, three of which Amber would bounce between as if she were a hot potato and aunt this or uncle that couldn’t stand to hold her.

She thought her aunt was her mother, the uncle who yelled at her in one of the trailers she slept in was her father. She didn’t know her mother had left her when she was three, didn’t know her father farmed her out to his parents and his brother and sister-in-law because he didn’t know what to do with two girls three and one.

The cool water soothed Amber, the rippling hypnotized her, the trickling sang to her and she’d stay at the creek until someone cared enough to call her name. Even if shouted and with a streak of annoyance in the voice, it felt good to hear her name yelled, and from a distance she could believe the unbelievable, that she’d find love and a warm meal steaming on the table of one of those boxes, like the free lunch she would get at school where she’d rake the food in her mouth before they’d tell her she’d have to go to recess.  On the playground she’d take out her frustration and make friends and abandon them then make up again, all to see what they’d feel like if they were her, and to try out what love might feel like, to see what the other side of betrayal felt like and somehow understand why her mother left her.

She held the crawdad up to her face and wondered what it would feel like to get pinched on the nose, and it was tempting to find out but she didn’t feel brave enough to try. Caught and eaten, carried away by children, taunted, put back, the crawdad was a survivor, but this species, Nashville Crayfish, had been put on the endangered list for rare wildlife on the edge of extinction.

For Amber there were plenty and she knew how to find them, under rocks, swimming in pooled water, starting to burrow in mud before winter.

Amber was a lot like that crawdad, tough on the outside, eaten up and soft on the inside, and she had pincers. Those sissy girls at school would never catch a crawdad, and they’d never think about eating one, but Amber knew people have been eating these since the Indians lived here and plucked them out of the stream, and with the exception of those who thought of the crayfish as one of their non-edible totems, they’d eat the meat of the tail. She wanted to tear that crawdad apart and eat it.

She didn’t understand the snippets of adult conversation she heard about someone buying the trailer park, but ever since she could remember that was the ticking gossip bomb that got set by scraps of rumor.
Would the trailer park survive? The boxes she bounced in and out of were all Amber knew. Where would they go if the trailer park sold and they had to move? If they had to leave, she worried she’d never see Ron and Gidget again.

Amber didn’t know if Ron and Gidget were her relatives or just friends, but she liked them, and they called her “goddaughter,” and they bought her a dress. Secretly she wished they’d take her in their trailer and let her live there, and she didn’t understood why they couldn’t. They’d just sit out on the picnic table and talk most days and she’d eat crackers and cheese and drink milk there, and she’d always leave Gidget’s trailer feeling warm and full.

By Greg Taylor Posted in Uncategorized