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