Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections Day #1

(Reflection written by Phil Swain)

READING: John 1:1-5 (NLT)

In the beginning the Word already existed.
The Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.
God created everything through him,
and nothing was created except through him.
The Word gave life to everything that was created,
and his life brought light to everyone.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.

REFLECTION

As I begin this Advent journey, this time of preparing for the coming of Jesus at Christmas, the word that comes to me is HOPE.  I love the reading from the beginning of John’s gospel – not only because of the poetic way that John talks about Jesus as the Word, always existing before the beginning, being with God, and being God – but because this reading is full of HOPE.  John reminds us that Jesus gives life to all of creation, including ourselves, and that life brings light.

Sometimes I feel that our world is getting darker.  People are getting meaner and more divided.  There is less listening and more arguing.  Less helping and more hating.  As Matthew 25:12 predicts, the love of most is growing cold.  The darkness brings with it hopelessness – and yet, a light shines in the darkness.  An alternative way of living and loving, a way that brings life and light.  This light is reflected in the story of Christmas.  This light is Jesus.  Jesus shines in the darkness, and although the darkness is trying, the darkness can never (and will never) extinguish it.  Now, that is something that I find HOPE in!

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, as I begin this advent journey, may your light shine.  This advent, I ask you to “enlighten” me, help me to see that you have been at work right from the beginning, bringing life and love and life to all of your creation.  Help me to be a reflection of that light – shining bright into the dark places of this world.  I pray that all might find HOPE in you.  Amen.

Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections Day #2

(Reflection written by Edwina Baily)

Reading: Jeremiah 33:14-16
“‘The days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will fulfil the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.
“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The LORD Our Righteous Saviour.’

Reflection

Let’s put ourselves in the place of the people that Jeremiah was speaking to. A nation on the brink of destruction, leaders carried off into exile, attacked on every side by their enemies, their own leaders rendered powerless; the people of Judah had every reason to despair. All did indeed seem lost. It was then that Jeremiah called them back to God’s promise, reminding them that the time was coming when one of David’s descendants would again be king. And he wouldn’t be like most of their kings, corrupt, weak and ungodly. No, he would “do what is just and right” and all would be restored. It would be another 600 years before the promise was realised in the birth of Jesus.

A couple of thousand years later, we too are waiting for the coming of Jesus. We long for that moment when everything will be made right; when our world will be released from pain, poverty and injustice. We wait in hope, however; sure in the knowledge that God’s promises never fail and that Jesus is already King.

Prayer:

Dear God, during this season of Advent, help me to keep my eyes on you and your promises. May my hope come from the certain knowledge that your promises are for all time and that you are with us, bringing your Kingdom to earth even now. Let my actions, words and choices help to extend your Kingdom wherever I go this week. Amen

Day #3 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Edwina Baily)

Reading: Luke 1:5-10
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were bothvery old. Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

Reflection:
Here we meet Zechariah and Elizabeth for the first time; normal people going about their normal day. And yet, it wasn’t just an ordinary day. On this day Zechariah had been chosen to enter the Holy Place in order to supply the altar in front of the Most Holy Place with fresh incense. This was an honour that might come to a priest only once in a life time or perhaps never.

And maybe they weren’t such normal people either. They had faithfully kept God’s commands, living blameless lives and yet He had not blessed them with children. In the world they lived in, this was a black mark and a sign that perhaps God’s favour was not on them after all.

So, we can only imagine the feelings for both Zechariah and Elizabeth on this day. It was a day of honour, hope and joy on which they continued to faithfully live out their calling. This very faithfulness put them in the right place for God to use them in his redemption plan for all people.

What if it was you God wanted to use today? Would you be in the right place to accept it? Is your heart ready and are you willing to do whatever He has planned?

Prayer: 
Dear God, I pray that today I will be faithful just as Zechariah and Elizabeth were faithful. Help me to accept the opportunities you place before me today, so that I can be open to all the blessings you have in store. Amen.

Day #4 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jonty Cornford)

Reading:  Luke 1:11-17

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Reflection:

Zechariah finds himself in the presence of an angel of the Lord, and it’s not the kind of experience we sometimes imagine, where perhaps there is singing, bright lights and potentially some expensive-looking special effects. It is an experience that deeply affects him, and he is terrified. The angel didn’t present itself with build up or fanfare, it was a sudden, somewhat unceremonious event that startled Zechariah. But the angel brought good news – his and Elizabeth’s prayers had been answered, and she would be to have a baby. A son whom they would call John, and who would go on in the spirit and power of Elijah to do God’s work in the world.

Passages like this make me wonder about the power of prayer, and the significance of what the results can be. I have never personally experienced the presence of an angel of the Lord, and certainly have never been shocked or terrified as a result of prayer, and so I often wonder if I am doing prayer right. I sometimes wonder if I missed the answer I was waiting for, or if God just simply hasn’t offered one yet. But for every story of God answering prayers directly and without ambiguity, there is another of God working in the quiet, in the grey and in those who are not as strong in faith as Zechariah and Elizabeth. And so in re-reading this story I am reminded to be patient in my prayer and not anxious in my waiting. After all, they were both very old and Elizabeth was unable to conceive, but God turned their waiting and faithfulness into a blessing much larger than either of them could have ever expected.

Prayer:

Creator God, I pray that I will be faithful in my waiting, patient in expectation, and glad in your unexpected, sometimes confronting answers to my prayers. Help us to let this patience and quiet expectation bleed into our preparations and hopes for this advent season. Amen.

Day #5 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jodi Thomas)

Reading:  Luke 1:18-25

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favour and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

Reflection:

When I read this passage, I immediately think about the difficulty of waiting. We all find it hard to wait for different things; holidays, parties, birth of a baby, birthday presents etc. I find it hard to wait in queues, or to wait before I speak. Waiting sometimes has a sense of dread about it, such as waiting for a medical diagnosis. Advent is the time we wait expectantly to celebrate God coming to Earth, and it carries with it a big sense of anticipation.

In this passage from Luke, we hear about Zechariah and Elizabeth who had waited for a child but had thought this was not going to happen until they were visited by the angel. Zechariah then had to wait for the birth of John the Baptist before he could speak again and he must have been busting to tell everyone about his experience. I’d imagine that their waiting, following this visit from Gabriel, had a big sense of expectancy about it. Waiting for God to fulfil His promises in His time can build anticipation, patience and trust in Him. We sometimes forget that God is working while we are waiting and that He is in control.

Zechariah and Elizabeth also did their part and allowed God to work through them. We pray this Advent that God moves in us and our church in amazing ways, that we allow him to work through us, and that we wait for his response with a sense of expectancy and hope.

Prayer:

Make room by Casting Crowns https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQHgI6D2nGg

Day #6 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Niluka Chinniah)

Reading:  Luke 1:26-38

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favour with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Reflection

The beautiful start to the Christmas story as we know it. The angel appearing to the young maiden, bringing joyful news of the fulfilment of God’s promise to his people.  In Mary, we see a young woman pledged to be married and living a simple but peaceful life. Probably having her own hopes and dreams and expectations. Suddenly she is confronted by this bewildering news. News about what God’s plans are, for her life. Blended in with words of promise and blessings like “… highly favoured! The Lord is with you”, “He will be called the son of the Most High”, we also see phrases such as “Do not be afraid” “How will this be?”, which shows the gravity of the decision in front of Mary. Her faith and trust in God tells her that these promises will be fulfilled. However, it is her humility and courage that leads to the acceptance of this calling. This could be us in our everyday lives. Whether it’s just a gentle nudge or a life changing event that stops us in our tracks and tells us that God wants something different from our lives. Yes, we may have the faith to believe in the message but do we often have the humility and courage to follow through? The humility to set aside our own plans and what we think is right. The courage to act and venture in to the unknown, trusting God.

Prayer

Gracious Father, help us always to understand your calling and to see clearly the path we ought to take. In a noisy world full of materialistic expectations, and its own definitions of achievement and success, help us to truly understand life. Make us humble enough to accept the alternative and give us the courage to take action, the courage to walk down the path chosen by you.

 

Day #7 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Steve Koroknay)

Reading:  Matthew 1:18-21

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

 

Reflection

We may be quick to reject the Lord’s teachings or requests just to fit in with the crowd. Not many want to be the weird or strange one, to be the odd one out. It creates a sense of loneliness and we feel ridiculed by society. Just as we struggle to put full faith in God in the face of public judgement, Joseph is unable to trust in God and decides he will quickly and quietly divorce Mary. However, God persists and sends an Angel to convince Joseph to trust him and his plan for Joseph. God has a plan for all of us, some of these plans may make us uncomfortable and we may receive judgement from our peers, but the Lord asks us to follow and not worry. As we see later, these plans lead to extraordinary outcomes if we have faith and follow through, just as Joseph did.

 

Prayer

Lord, we thank you for your guidance so far in this journey you have set out for us. We ask that you continue to help us to keep on track with your plan, to have faith that even in difficult times of judgement that we know you are here, and that this plan will lead to great things. We pray that we understand and remember the true meaning behind Christmas through all the other distractions.

 

Day #8 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Angus Robinson)

Reading:  Matthew 1:22-25

22 All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Reflection

In this reading, a strictly theological interpretation might suggest that “we discover the concept of fulfilled prophecy. The Saviour would be born of a virgin. God will fulfil His every Word. Since Matthew was writing primarily to a Jewish audience, the fulfilment of prophecy is consistently brought to the forefront. Matthew was ever pointing his audience to the fact that Jesus was indeed their long awaited Messiah.” Theologians might also point out that Matthew cites the prophecy from Isaiah:

‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).’

Theologians might also claim rightly that “the Saviour of the world did not come from an empress or a queen.  He did not appear with outward pomp or splendour.  Rather, leaving His glory behind, He arrives in the womb of a poor young virgin, a reflection of spiritual purity. The highest and holiest entered this world through the most humble of doors, and  the name “Immanuel” assuring the people of God’s continued presence”.

Another theological interpretation might point to the Book of Luke 1: v26-38 where more details about the conception of Jesus occurred through the intervention of the Holy Spirit as advised by the angel Gabriel. V34-35:  “ Mary said to the angel , “I am a virgin. How, then can this be?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and God’s power will rest upon you. For this reason the holy child will be called the Son of God”. Referencing the conception of John the Baptist through her ‘old mother’ Elizabeth, the angel said, v37, “For there is nothing that God cannot do”.

From a lay Christian perspective, the means of conception of Jesus (or that matter the creation of Eve from Adam) is neither explained nor understood – it is a matter of faith and belief that ‘there is nothing that God cannot do’.

The Bible is replete with metaphors, and the conception of Jesus may convey another meaning  i.e. the creation of human beings is indeed a wonderful God created miracle – Homo sapiens with souls that distinguish our species from all other animal life on Earth. Perhaps, the conception of Jesus is indeed a manifestation of the Holy Trinity – the Father begot his Son through the grace of the Holy Spirit, and a reminder to us all that humanity is very special in eyes of our Lord!

 

Reflective Prayer

Dear Father, we prayer together in the traditional Christian prayer to the Holy Trinity.  Glory be to You the Father and to You the Son – whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and to You the Holy Spirit -who conceived Your Son in the image of humankind.   As it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen.

 

Day #9 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jon Humphries)

Reading: Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

 

Reflection

This should awaken faith and doubt. There should be so many questions. Virgins conceiving, how do we conceive it as possible? Mary, we know, was that virgin. How does one cope with that sort of intervention from God, which puts one at risk, changes your world and makes God not just conceivably real,  but demonstrably real?

Immanuel = God with us. Is God really with us? What does that mean? In the Advent week of Peace, this is a disturbing reality we are confronted with. God is with us. The Christ who came to turn the tables, is being remembered again. The confronting work of peace is given to us and shouldn’t that upend our world just as it did to Mary?

As we get deeper into this new Christian year and this season of Advent, and remember anew the way of the cross, let us find peace in knowing God is with us, but at the same time being mindful of the call to change the world to make peace, just as God did through the Christ – whom is promised as a baby at this stage in the story, so that we have some time to get our minds around the change that should bring to our lives.

 

Prayer

Immanuel,

God with us,

Christ,

Awaken our faith and questioning.

Disturb us and shock us with the reality of your presence.

As we wait for the birth of the promised Child, Your incarnation amongst us, May we who know the story, Get our minds around what it means.

Help us prepare anew for the way of the Christ, The way of the cross, Which calls us out in hope to work with you for real peace, Knowing the cost, Being the blessing.

This we pray.

Amen.

 

Day #10 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Linda Kemp)

 

Reading:   Luke 1:39-45 New International Version (NIV)

39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfil his promises to her!”

 

Reflection:

This passage is a great combination of extremes. On the one extreme, two pregnant relatives are meeting. Such a normal, human thing to do. And yet, both pregnancies are miraculous, the result of divine intervention, having been announced by angels. On one side we have Mary, virgin girl – probably around 14 years old, and shocked by a pregnancy that should not be possible yet. On the other hand, Elizabeth, older and pregnant with a child who should no longer be possible. And one version of the meeting is two ordinary human women, and yet it is also a meeting between the prophet-to-be and his Lord for whom he is preparing the way.

The Christmas period is often the same experience of extremes for us as church. On the one hand we are surrounded by the mundane human excitement about Christmas, and we see everywhere the commercial greed and gluttony that invites us to shop, to spend, to indulge our materialism. And on the other hand we are embracing the holiness of advent, the quiet waiting for the promised Child. As we are bombarded with distractions in this period, may we keep our eyes on God. May we all keep the childlike excitement of the baby John, may we leap for joy at the thought of Christ becoming one of us.

 

Prayer:

Lord, We worship You during this Christmas season. We acknowledge that You are the only true gift to us, and ask that You help us to keep our focus on You in this time. Thank You for Your Son, for the promise of eternal life with You, and for the blessings of joy, family and community that we celebrate together. Show us where we can share Your love with those who are alone, unwell or unhappy during Christmas, and help us to bring light to those who need it most. In Your name.

 

Day #11 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Eunice Warren)

Reading: Luke 1:46-56

46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,  just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

 

Reflection:

Mary’s Song is a beautiful reminder to me of the right response to Jesus’ birthday. Amidst the frenzy and busy-ness of our Christmas preparations – searching for the perfect gift for a loved one, stressing over the Christmas lunch/dinner menu, negotiating who gets to host the family reunion – Mary’s Song helps me refocus my priorities.

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (v.46-47) Nothing else but Jesus at the heart of Christmas. How do I glorify God this season? Do I rejoice in God my saviour?

“…for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant….for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.” (v. 48-49)  We are undeserving yet blessed because of what God has done for us. How wonderful and humbling to think that God chose us to receive His perfect gift.

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (v. 50)  As I trace the lineage of God’s grace in my family and in my church family, I am humbled and grateful for the faithful who have gone before and I can only ask that God enables me to leave behind a worthy legacy of faith.

In the prelude to Christmas – shopping for or making gifts, taking a break for holidays, planning or attending parties, cleaning and decorating our homes – how will we also prepare our hearts? What will our song be?

 

Prayer:

Father God, may we be as faithful and humble and obedient as Mary, that we too might sing “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. Amen.

 

Day #12 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Emily Kitcher)

Reading:  Luke 1:68-79

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

 

Reflection:

As we read these opening chapters of Luke, a Christmas tale of not one, but TWO special babies begins to emerge. One baby is Jesus, God’s anointed king. The other baby is John, God’s chosen prophet. Both of these “Christmas” babies were born unexpectedly to families that weren’t expecting a new baby, yet these two baby boys were known by God, expected by God and were born with a purpose to fulfill (v. 70). Every Sunday we celebrate the fulfilled promises, life and love of Jesus, but we don’t spend that much time thinking about God’s plan for John.

John’s purpose, prophesied by his father, was to serve God by preparing the hearts and minds of people to meet Jesus, their Saviour (v. 76, 77). We too are born with an individual, God-given purpose to love and serve God in our lives. Some choose to serve God in politics while others serve God in prisons. Some serve God in their home, others in the workplace or overseas on mission. Christmas provides a time for reflecting on what our purpose is or what God is calling it to be. Over the period of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus, spend some time reflecting on God’s promises, possibilities and purposes for your life.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, lead me today as I follow God’s purpose for my life. May I always know and trust that I am known by God and loved by God.

Day #13 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Lesley Kelfkens)

 

Reading:  Luke 2:1-5

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.  So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

 

Reflection:

The first part of this reading describes a journey. As I read this, I imagined our Prime Minister declaring a census. As the online census was such a debacle, he has ordered us to return to our “home” town. Lithgow is 129 km from Turramurra, the same distance from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There are no cars, we are on foot and we have to pass through some rough, crime-infested areas in the western parts of Sydney. Once entering the difficult terrain of the Blue Mountains, we may encounter deadly snakes. We travel in a group for safety and either camp in the open or rely on the hospitality of those we encounter along the way. This walk would take about 4 days. On top of that, imagine you are doing this while almost 9 months pregnant (that’s around a 3-4 kg bag strapped around your waist)! Mary and Joseph may have wanted to avoid passing through Samaria, which would have been their most direct route and may have chosen a route that was flatter and safer. This would have meant an 8-10 day walk instead.

The word that jumped out from the latter part of the reading was “belonged”. More importantly, Joseph belonged to the house and line of David and of course, there is the anticipation of the imminent birth of the child, Jesus. Belonging is important to us as humans. It gives us a sense of who we are and that we are not alone. As Christians, we belong to the house and line of Jesus. We always have a place and a sense of community and the anticipation of meeting and sharing with Jesus through prayer and reading His Word. No matter the hardships we face and how epic the journey, Christ has his arms open to us. We belong to Him and He is our Shepherd, waiting in anticipation to meet us and care for us.

Prayer:

Jesus, as we travel through these days approaching your Birth, dealing with personal struggles and caught up in the stress and frenzy of planning for travel or large family gatherings over Christmas, help us to rather focus on the importance and joy of belonging…. to the community of our family, friends, our Church and You. Amen.

 

Day #14 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Susy Cornford)


Reading:  Luke 2:6-7

6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

 

Reflection:

These verses basically sum up the birth of Jesus. There wasn’t time for fuss and he was definitely not placed into a crib which was decorated for a king. Jesus was a human, he was just a human. This makes the brilliant things that he went on to do so much more brilliant. He started as one of us, made his first steps with us, and loved as one of us. God brought himself down to our level even though he could have come down in the mightiest of thrones.

Although God doesn’t want us to give up everything, he still wants us to be generous. So as Christmas leads into the new year we need to remember to be humble. Be humble as Jesus was.

 

Prayer:

Jesus, as we prepare to receive you this Christmas, please help us to make sure that there is room available for you in our lives.  Help us to be humble as you were.  Help us to look beyond the Christmas story and follow your example of living and loving.  Amen.

 

Day #15 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Bill Bolton)


Reading: Luke 2:8-12 

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

 

Reflection

The Light has come into the world and it is announced first not to the powerful and great of the land, but instead to ordinary people, doing their ordinary work, in an ordinary place.  The appearance of the angel, surrounded by the glory of the Lord, scares the wits out of them but the angel brings wonderful news.  The prophecies of Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 11:10, and Micah 5:2 have been fulfilled, the Messiah has been born in David’s city and will be a Saviour of all the people (that is, to the whole world). Then they are sent off to find him.

I love these verses as they are a part of the nativity story that has survived ~2000 years of church tradition virtually unscathed.  The shepherds have never acquired names and their number has remained uncertain.  The flocks were brought-in from the cold between about November and March, so with the shepherds in the fields, the time of the nativity is most likely in summer or autumn, and quite possibly near the time of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles).  However, the exact time is not important, the Light has come into the World, and that is everything!

 

Prayer

Eternal Father,

You sent Jesus into our world as a light to shine through the darkness. May Jesus’ light continue to shine within us as we walk through the world, and help us to share it generously and joyfully in our families and community

We make our prayer through Jesus our Lord and our light.  Amen.

Day #16 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jen Gates)

Reading: Luke 2:13-14
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Reflection:
Glory to God indeed ! His plan to save His creation has been set in motion . What must it have been like to witness this moment in time ?

From an early age I have associated the Christmas story with angels and heavenly hosts. No doubt due to the fact that being chosen to play the part of the angel Gabriel in the annual school nativity play was tantamount to being elected class captain! (all the tinsel, wings and halos! a little girl’s dream come true). With a child’s faith, I knew that something amazing was going on with Jesus’ birth. The angels were very much more ‘in the know’ and so could not hold back in their praise to God in all the excitement. My understanding and perception of the Christmas story has rightly changed, as my faith has matured. ‘Life’ however does so often get in the way of our giving God the praise and thanks that He deserves. Do we take time to experience the peace He brings us?

In singing Handel’s Messiah at Christmas time in the Sydney Town Hall I am always filled with excitement and wonder as the music soars, and God is exalted. The Chorus ‘Glory to God ‘ is echoing todays reading from Luke.

Prayer:
Lord, Help us to remember that Christmas is about You, not us.
We are in awe of your amazing sacrifice to send your Son as a baby to save us, and we join with the angels in praising you , and accept with gratitude the peace you bring to us.
May we be a witness to others at this wonderful time of the year, midst the tinsel and wrapping paper . Amen

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hIQ_nV9oxs

 

Day #17 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Lynda Humphries)

Reading: Luke 2:15-18
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Reflection:
So many parts of this Christmas story are shocking. Imagine being among a group of lowly shepherds, sitting on a hill and doing your job of protecting sheep, only to be confronted by angels. Interestingly, as I was trying to find an image to go with this reflection, I found it very difficult to find one with the shepherds in it. They were the outcasts of society and were often forgotten … and yet, these are the ones whom God chose to share the news of Jesus’ birth. Sometimes I wonder how much they were impacted by this meeting, that they would head straight off to find this baby. Would I do the same? Would I be brave enough to act on what I had heard? Or would I be scared to tell people, just in case they thought I was crazy?
The other part of this verse that strikes me is the fact that, after meeting Jesus, they went off and told everyone about the child. For those of us who have grown up in the church, sometimes I think it is easy to become complacent about this story. It really is miraculous on so many levels and yet we seem to listen to it each year and forget to experience the enormity of each step of the story. For me, this verse is a challenge to share the story with others. Just like the shepherds, we need to tell others of the miracles involved in Jesus’ birth and the difference that this small baby made to the world.

Prayer:
Lord God,
We thank you for the way that you were present in each step of this Christmas journey.
We thank you for the miracles which occurred along the way.
Forgive us for becoming complacent when we hear the Christmas story.
Help us to interact with this story and to see it with fresh eyes.
Give us the courage to tell others about the Christmas story,
To tell them of your Son, who was sent to change our world.
Amen

Day #18 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Hanno Kemp)

Reading: Luke 2:19-20
19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

Reflection:
“Christmas comes but once a year”. But it comes EVERY year.

Many of us have had more Christmases than we choose to count or admit! As with so many things in our lives, there is a risk, over time, that the novelty wears off. A risk that we are too established in our Christmas rituals and routines, our favourite Christmas dishes and a go-to rendition of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”… These things bring us such a sense of comfort and familiarity. Why then, do they hold a risk?

When last did we truly ponder Christmas, in our hearts, as Mary did on that very first one? When last did we grapple deeply with the life-changing moment of our Saviour born as a fragile baby? For Mary, it was immediate, real and utterly confronting – and even she set aside time to get her head around what it MEANT. For us, there’s a chance that it might slip to the back of our minds as we carefully consider table-settings and seating arrangements. May our Christmas this year not only be filled with our favourite pudding, but also a healthy serving of pondering!

Prayer:
Lord,
Help us this Christmas
to think more on a stable than a laden table,
To focus more on service than the folding of the serviettes,
To remember heavenly riches, not the array of dishes,
To understand the meaning of cowbells even more than carols, and
To celebrate our Saviour, more than our family’s favour.
Amen

Day #19 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Sue Bolton)

Reading: Matthew 2:1-2
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Reflection:
Here we have the first two of twelve verses that are the only Scriptural reference to the mysterious visitors from the east, and yet these verses have led to a disproportionate amount of conjecture over the centuries. Who were these visitors, and what in fact was the “star” that enticed them to travel a great distance to find the one “born king of the Jews”?

Most scholars today believe these visitors came from the vast Parthian Empire that stretched across the Middle East and Central Asia. From the Old Testament books of Esther and Daniel we know that the Magi or wise men held positions of immense importance in the royal courts. We have also learnt that part of their studies included Babylonian astronomy and astrology. Recently Simo Parpola has fairly convincingly argued that in the 7th century BC, an extremely rare series of planetary conjunctions occurred. These aligned with Babylonian and Persian understanding of the kingly implications of such an astronomic event.

Now whether Parpola’s theory is correct, or whether the Star, as suggested by some others, was a manifestation of the miraculous Shekinah Glory that led the children of Israel through the wilderness and blinded Saul on the road to Damascus, there’s no doubt that these two verses point to something of both cosmic and international significance. That foreigners could be so drawn to Jerusalem (and then on to Bethlehem) marks a brand new beginning in God’s story of redemption, when His promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” was about to be fulfilled in Jesus.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you that your redeeming love was, and is, for us and “all peoples on earth”. May we search the scriptures as diligently as the Magi searched the skies, daily worship Jesus with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and witness to those who are seeking you, whoever and wherever they are. Amen

Day #20 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Marty Cornford)

Reading: Matthew 2:3-6
3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Reflection:
Today we look at a character that is never really looked at in a children’s version of the Christmas story. We tend to sugar coat the Christmas story, but knowing the stakes puts it into perspective for us, and allows us to read it in a different light. Hearing that Herod was disturbed is worrying, especially knowing what he will do next. Sometimes when we look at the Christmas story we tend to just look at the birth of Jesus, and not what was happening around it, with the reactions of people like Herod, and what they do in reaction to the news. By seeing Herod’s clear disturbance caused by the birth of Christ, we see how he is seriously worried about what will happen because of this baby. He hears the prophecy, and seemingly actually also wants to go and worship this baby.

The words of the prophet are super cool. We can read it and see how Jesus will be the shepherd for the people of Israel, and ultimately everyone. He is the true ruler. Knowing this is pretty awesome, and also brings comfort to me.

Prayer
Loving God, in this time of advent we thank you for sending your son down to Earth. We thank you for the true ruler, the ruler of love. We pray that we are able to follow you, love you, and be guided by you. We will meet hardships and disturbances will arise. Knowing that your son was born can bring us comfort, and knowing that he was sent down to Earth can help us see more of you around us.
In your son’s name, Amen

Day #21 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jon Fowler)

Reading: Matthew 2:7-8
7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

Well we know the story – the dark cloud of Herod taking an interest in the Saviour’s birth, and whilst the Magi might not have been wise at first to Herod’s intentions, they later had a warning in a dream to stay well away from Herod with any news of their encounter with Jesus, that might lead Herod to the new-born, “so that I too may go and worship him”. The locals knew too well how Herod ruled; whilst sucking up to the Romans to retain and enhance his local rule, he was known to be a cruel and ruthless King by his local constituents. Even Caesar Augustus was said to have reflected that he’d rather be Herod’s dog than his son. Indeed, we hear in later verses Herod ordering all male children up to two years in Bethlehem to be killed – ‘worship’ was never on his agenda; he was paranoid, fiercely protective of his power and determined to stamp out any prospect of a rival king to his rule.

God had no intention of allowing Herod anywhere near the Saviour Jesus, and tipped off by an angel in his dreams, Joseph quickly took his family off to Egypt before Herod’s massacre in Bethlehem. Jesus was born into a world full of danger, but His Father in heaven had a plan which even Herod could have no impact. Sometimes we can forget that God’s plan takes priority over everything else in our lives that threatens to take us off the rails. His plan, His will, His guiding hand… we need to be listening, be ready to respond, just as Joseph did.

Prayer:
Father God, just as you kept Jesus safe at his birth, and guided every step of his life, we thank you that you are in control in this dangerous world, and that you call us to look to you through our unpredictable lives, to trust in your promises, and to live out your will for us. Amen

Day #22 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Lara Fowler)

Reading: Matthew 2:9-12
9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

When I read this passage I’m immediately reminded of the joy and even honour of meeting a new baby or child for the first time – you’re excited to meet this new being, part of your beloved family or the child of close friends. There’s anticipation and you want to make the right impression, and to bring a suitable gift, you set out on your journey having chosen the appropriate time to visit. The Magi – or wise men – have an intense drive to find and meet the new King of the Jews – this baby is not their sister’s child or the child of a close friend – he is to become their Lord, and they already have a sense of that and a determination to visit and bring gifts – gifts to honour Jesus but also, in the same way that we present a child with a gift, they brought gifts which would ease the burden on the family – gold, frankincense & myrrh.

The other part of this verse that I like and can feel an affinity with is that sense of warning the Magi felt not to return to Herod as he had instructed them to do. I’m sure we’ve all had times when we get a strong sense that our path should differ, maybe we don’t know why, maybe we feel like it’s a ‘coincidence’. Are we like the Magi? Are we able to discern God’s voice and move confidently forward to honour Jesus, to keep Him safe for the world?

Lord, help us this Christmas to honour Jesus. Let us bring ourselves as gifts, gifts worthy of a King. Help us take the right path to you, the path that will bring honour and glory to your name. Let us be different this Christmas, help us to be real. Amen.

 

Day #23 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Chris Bosch)

Reading: Galatians 4:4-7 (The Passion Translation)
4 But when that era came to an end and the time of fulfillment had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the written law. 5 Yet all of this was so that he would redeem and set free all those held hostage to the written law so that we would receive our freedom and a full legal adoption as his children.
6 And so that we would know for sure that we are his true children, God released the Spirit of Sonship into our hearts—moving us to cry out intimately, “My Father![c] You’re our true Father!”
7 Now we’re no longer living like slaves under the law, but we enjoy being God’s very own sons and daughters! And because we’re his, we can access everything our Father has—for we are heirs of God through Jesus, the Messiah!

Reflection
In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he pleads with them to embrace the freedom they have been given as children of God. Jesus birth and resurrection signals the end of an era – an era where they were held hostage by the law, slaves that had to follow a set of rules. In verse 9 he goes on to argue that “now that we truly know him and understand how deeply we’re loved by him, why would we, even for a moment, consider turning back to those weak and feeble principles of religion, as though we were still subject to them?” And he goes even further, imploring them to “become free from the bondage of religion” (v12).

Paul reminds them – and us today – that we are saved by God’s love and grace alone, not by adherence to the law. God has released the power of his Spirit in us – not so that we can be more compliant followers of rules, but so that we may experience his unconditional love in its fulness, and in turn show his love to others without making it conditional on our own rules. We do not have to live in fear any longer – fear that we are not good enough, not living up to God’s or other people’s expectations. Instead we are liberated children of God, called to live in faith, hope and love.

Prayer
Dear Lord,
We thank you that we are no longer slaves of fear – we praise you for freeing us from the bondage of religious laws through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
We pray for your forgiveness where we judge or condemn your children, our brothers and sisters – placing must’s and must not’s above love.
And we pray for the power of your Spirit so that our love may know no bounds and become real in our actions towards others. Amen

 

Day #24 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Kobie Bosch)

Reading: Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Reflection:
This prophesy was given to Israel nearly 600 years before the birth of Jesus. The Israelites still had to live through the Babylonian exile that was waiting for them one hundred years down the track. I wonder how this promise, this prophesy helped them live through the bleak days, months and years to come. Were they more hopeful in their waiting? Did they endure with a spirit of hope? Did they look Upwards or allow the realities of their world to discourage them and turn them into cynics?

All of us have to face personal challenges – challenges related to our health, or family, our finances, our jobs. Globally, when we look at the crazy messed up version of the world around us, we see poverty, injustice, greed, the refugee crisis, racism, xenophobia, domestic violence, terrorism… the list is endless really, it is so easy to feel overwhelmed. To be fearful. To close our hearts and our doors. But how WONDERFUL, how GLORIOUS, how LIBERATING and how LIFE CHANGING is it to then remember that we have a Saviour who has moved into our neighbourhood – who understands our humanity (a child is born), yet is divine (a Son), who is a wise Friend (wonderful Councelor), a fair and all powerful King (Mighty God), who promises to never leave us or forsake us whilst having our best interest at heart (Everlasting Father), and who has a heart overflowing with endless grace, mercy and reconciliation (Prince of Peace).

Prayer:
You, Master, started it all, laid earth’s foundations, then crafted the stars in the sky. Earth and sky will wear out, but not you; they become threadbare like an old coat; You’ll fold them up like a worn-out cloak, and lay them away on the shelf. But you’ll stay the same, year after year; you’ll never fade, you’ll never wear out. You are the bright Morning Star” Revelations 22:17 “Come,” says the Holy Spirit and the Bride in divine duet. Let everyone who hears this duet join them in saying, “Come.” Let everyone gripped with spiritual thirst say, “Come.” And let everyone who craves the gift of living water come and drink it freely. “It is my gift to you! Come.”
Amen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS3vpAWW2Zc

 

Day #25 – Advent Conspiracy Daily Reflections

(Today’s reflection was written by Jon Humphries)

Bible Passage: John 1:14
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Reflection:
Have you considered the nature of God? We often consider God in human terms, after all we have to use our human brains and human words to conceptualise God who is beyond our ability to conceptualise. Just before this verse, which is itself a metaphor to describe God, we hear that everything that was created, was created through the Word that was God. Here God is described as Word and exists outside of time and space. What might that even mean? How do we get our minds around that?

Yet, this God, creator of everything, enters our reality, not as a vision, or phantasm, or supernatural wonder, but enfleshed and literally embodied as one of us. We have seen his glory, but that glory is not about miraculous wonders and exhibitions of power. The glory of the Word of God, whom we know as the Christ, is seen in Jesus. It is revealed, ironically, in humility. God, who is love, loves us so much that God entered our reality in a humbly powerful way.

The glory of God is the depth and commitment of God’s love, “full of grace and truth.” This is humbling for us for whom the truth is that we need grace because we fall short of God’s glory, but at the same time it is mind-blowingly amazing and affirming. We are loved, but we are called to shine the glory of God to others in humble loving service to others, just as we have been loved by God.

Prayer
Word of God,
Immanuel, God with us,
Christ,
Jesus,
How might we understand the depth of your love?
How might we find words to describe you?
How might we accept the gift of your grace and truth?
How might we muster the will to humbly embody your love for all?
Lead us into answers as we remember you anew this Christmas.
This we love