Good God Memories

I might have been in fourth or fifth grade… I know I was a stubborn preteen. Mom and dad forced me to put on a Christmas sweater and corduroy pants as we made our way to Christmas Eve worship. Christmas and Easter are the only times some people show up for church, but in my family it was the only time I dressed up. Let’s just say I was reluctant to the formality.
My dad made our entire family come forward to light Advent Candles and read scripture in front of the church. I can remember how awkward it felt to stand in front of a crowded sanctuary reading from Luke “behold I give you good news of great joy for all the people.” Even then I thought my voice was annoying to hear (I still do). After we lit the candles and read the scripture we assumed our seats on the front row, singing familiar Christmas Carols. I was prepared to zone out, as usual, but then something unexpected happened… something significant… something that still serves a reminder, almost like a snapshot picture on the refrigerator.
That night it became to real to me that I was loved by God. I don’t know if it was the beautiful poetry of scripture, the faith of the music, or the beauty of the candles in a dark space, but God’s eternal love for me became real that Christmas. I’ve never forgotten that moment. I knew I was loved no matter what by the huge love of God.
Oh, I’ve managed to forgot many times since that I am loved unconditionally – and I’ve managed to act like it. I’ve also forgotten I am loved, so I may share love and invite others to be loved. But the memories of God at Christmas 30 years ago still stir my sometimes dormant faith. Even as I type these words, I remember the shadow of the candle bouncing on the brown carpet, and somewhere in that moment God showed up in the heart of a ten or eleven year old.
I am not sure if you have any similar memories of God. When my faith goes dry, it is these memories of God that pull me forward to seek the next experience of faith. This Christmas season, I hope you will intentionally seek God in worship – at home and at church. Sometimes you might feel like it is merely doing what we did last week or last year – and the routine might not immediately lead to the sacred celebration. But I want you to know that someone took me- and MADE me- worship that day and it changed my life. I am glad they did. Because God reached into my life, in the same way He is longing to reach into your life this Christmas season.

Making the Holiday Holy – Advent Reflections with C.S.Lewis

First Sunday of Advent
The Christian story is precisely the story of one grand miracle, the Christian assertion being that what is beyond all space and time, what is uncreated, eternal, come into nature, into human nature, descended into His own universe, and rose again, bringing nature up with Him. It is precisely one great miracle. If you take that away there is nothing specifically Christian left.
~ C.S. Lewis, “The Grand Miracle,” God in the Dock, pg80.
First Monday of Advent
The Eternal Being, who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man but (before that) a baby, and before that a fetus inside a Woman’s body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p179
First Tuesday of Advent
He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world up with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p148
First Wednesday of Advent
Just as every natural event is the manifestation at a particular place and moment of Nature’s total character, so every particular Christian miracle manifests at a particular place and moment the character and significance of the Incarnation.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p143
First Thursday of Advent
In this descent and reascent everyone will recognize a familiar pattern: a thing written all over the world. It is the pattern of all vegetable life. It must belittle itself into some thing hard, small and deathlike, it must fall into the ground: thence the new life reascends. It is the pattern of all animal generation too.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p148
First Friday of Advent
The Incarnation was God’s ‘weak moment’: when Omnipotence becomes a baby in a manger has ‘weakened’ itself…. The temptation…is precisely a temptation to evade the self-imposed weaknesses, to be strong, omnipotent, again – to make stones into bread, to be emperor of the world, to do ‘levitations’. The weakness was the strength.
~ C.S. Lewis, Collected Letters III, p 409ff
First Saturday of Advent
No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without Him. But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p182
Quest for Peace: Second Sunday of Advent
When the year dies in preparation for the birth
Of other seasons, not the same, on the same earth,
Then saving and calamity go together make
The Advent gospel, telling how the heart will break.
Therefore it was in Advent that the Quest began…
~ C.S. Lewis, “Launcelot”, Narrative Poems, p95
The Gift of Judgement: Second Monday of Advent
Judgment is at hand, promise of judgment and threat of judgment…. It is the same sort of ambivalence which Christians have been taught to recognize in the season of Advent.
~ C.S. Lewis and Charles Williams, The Arthurian Torso, p157
God Shatters: Second Tuesday of Advent
My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. And most are “offended” by the iconoclasm; and blessed are those who are not. But the same thing happens in our private prayers.
~ C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p78
What We Can Understand: Second Wednesday of Advent
We cannot conceive how the Divine Spirit dwelled within the created and human spirit of Jesus…. What we can understand…is that our own…existence is…but a faint image of the Divine Incarnation itself – the same theme in a very minor key.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p147
Just Like Your Father: Second Thursday of Advent
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the Sons of God. We do not know…how things would have worked if the human race had never rebelled against God and joined the enemy…. You and I are concerned with the way things work now.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p178
Test of Greatness: Second Friday of Advent
[The great French writer] Montaigne became kittenish with his kitten but [it] never talked philosophy to him. Everywhere the great enters the little – its power to do so is almost the test of its greatness.
~ C.S. Lewis, Miracles, p147
Excitement Of A Child: Second Saturday of Advent
I have read [your book] Treasure on Earth and I don’t believe you have any notion how good it is…. I’ve never seen the hushed internal excitement of a child on Christmas Eve better done. That is something we can all recognize.
~ C.S. Lewis, from “Letter to Mrs. Phyllis Sandeman”, Dec. 10, 1952, Lewis’ Collected Letters, III, pp261ff
Week Three
His Name In This World: Third Sunday of Advent
Dear Hida (is that right?) Newman,
Thank you so much for your lovely letter and pictures…. As to Aslan’s other name, well I want you to guess. Has there never been anyone in the world who (1.) arrived at the same time as Father Christmas. (2.) Said he was the son of the Great Emperor. (3.) Gave himself up for someone else’s fault to be jeered at and killed by wicked people. (4.) Came to life again. (5.) Is sometimes spoken of as a Lamb…. Don’t you really know His name in this world? Think it over and let me know your answer.
~ C.S. Lewis, from “Letter to Hila Newman,” June 3, 1953, Lewis’ Collected Letters, III, p.334
To Tell His Story: Third Monday of Advent
My brother and I took a day off last week, put sandwiches in our pockets, and tramped sixteen miles..from Dorchester Abbey to Oxford…. You would be surprised if you could see the unspoilt beauty and charm which can still be found…. I hope to send you the autographed children’s book by Christmas, but will probably know more about its progress this afternoon, as I am going out to lunch with my publisher.
~ C.S. Lewis, “Letter to Miss Vera Mathews,” September 20, 1950, Lewis’ Collected Letters, III, p54
Greatness Comes In Smallness: Third Tuesday of Advent
“It seems, then”, said Tirian…”that the Stable seen from within and the Stable seen from without are two different places.”
“Yes,” said the Lord Digory. “Its inside is bigger than its outside.”
“Yes,” said Queen Lucy. “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”
~ C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle, p141
To Glorify And Enjoy: Third Wednesday of Advent
The Scotch catechism says that man’s end is ‘to glorify God and enjoy Him forever’. But we shall then know that these are the same thing. Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy him.
~ C.S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, p97
A Gift To You For Others: Third Thursday of Advent
“Hadn’t we better take what we want and get out again?” said Edmund.
“We must take the Gifts,” said Peter.
For long ago at a Christmas in Narnia he and Susan and Lucy had been given certain presents which they valued more than their whole kingdom…. They all agreed…and there, sure enough, the gifts were still hanging. Lucy’s was the smallest for it was only a little bottle.
~ C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, p23
Christmas Shopping: Third Friday of Advent
From the waist upwards he was like a man, but his legs were shaped like a goat’s…. One of his hands…held an umbrella: in the other arm he carried several brown paper parcels. What with the parcels and the snow it looked just as if he had been doing his Christmas shopping. He was a Faun. And when he saw Lucy he gave such a start of surprise that he dropped all his parcels.
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p8
Any Point In Going On?: Third Saturday of Advent
[The Queen of Narnia] “isn’t a real queen at all,” answered Lucy. “She is a horrible White Witch…. She has made an enchantment over the whole country so that it is always winter here and never Christmas.”
“I wonder if there’s any point in going on,” said Susan…. “What about just going home?”
~ C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, p56
Week Four
Jesus Saves: Fourth Sunday of Advent
Most of my books are evangelistic, addressed to [those outside the faith].
~ C.S. Lewis, from “Rejoinder to Dr. Pittenger,” God in the Dock, p181
Peace On Earth: Fourth Monday of Advent
There! They’re at it again. “‘Ark, the errol hygel sings”…. Boxing Day [December 26] is only two and a half weeks [away]; then perhaps we shall have a little quiet in which to remember the birth of Christ.
~ C.S. Lewis, “Delinquints in the Snow,” God in the Dock, p310
Very Many Thanks: Fourth Tuesday of Advent
Once more, very many thanks to all your great goodness to me and mine: and with all best wishes for a happy Christmas.
~ C.S. Lewis, from Letter to Dr. Warfield Firor, Nov. 6, 1948, Lewis’ Collected Letters, II, p889
Campaign of Sabotage: Fourth Wednesday of Advent
Enemy-occupied territory – that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed…and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p46
Bring Religion Into Everything: Fourth Thursday of Advent
Just a hurried line…to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and all this ghastly “Xmas” racket at its lowest. My brother heard a woman on a bus say, as the bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, “Oh Lor’! They bring religion into everything. Look – they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”
~ C.S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, Dec. 29, 1958, p80
Give More Than We Can Spare: Fourth Friday of Advent
Charity – giving to the poor – is an essential part of Christian morality…. I do not believe on can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
~ C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p86
Developed by Anchor Community Church, Ontario, Canada

Pray Without Ceasing

Developing a consistent prayer life can be difficult. Focus does not come easily, and often I find myself praying when it “really matters” and not talking to God daily. When I do I am glad I did because I find myself and my perspective changing and bending towards God – through acknowledging who God is, articulating gratitude for all we have been given, and asking God to step in where I cannot and guide my steps where I can go.
This has been a really difficult week for our larger Chicago-metro area. I prayed a lot this Tuesday night as events in Chicago that ‘really mattered’ were unfolding. I prayed that God would protect our city. I prayed that God would keep our children safe. I prayed God would comfort the family of Laquan McDonald. And I prayed violence would not create more violence. I prayed for wisdom from city leaders, who, though easy to poke fun at, have much more difficult jobs than we will even imagine. So I prayed for all of the above and much more.
Richard Foster said “the hinge of human history is swung by those who pray with passion.” I want to be that person. I want us to be a church full of those people. I want us to pray with passion and change the course of human events by faith. I want our first response to tragedy to not be snark, social media rants, or shallow, predictable left and right political ‘answers’. I want us to beg God to intervene in ways seen and unseen so that truth and righteousness prevail… full of awareness and gratitude of all we have been given, and full of expectancy of what God does and WHO God is.
This Thanksgiving Day, if you get to sit down to eat a feast with family or friends, I want to encourage you to pray with those people closest to you. Tell God what you are grateful for, and yes, bless the meal and pray for those not able to be there. But what if God’s people offered focused and humble and honest and authentic prayer to the events of our lives, our families, and our world that will dominate our side conversations once the prayer is done? I believe it could change so much, beginning with ourselves.
1. Call on God. 2. Humble yourselves in truly grateful thanksgiving and honest need. 3. Ask and trust God to heal us and those around us.
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2nd Chronicles 7:14