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Scrub Brushes and Town Criers by Angie Fuller

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Three: the Benedictus

Wednesday, December 20

Mark 9:9-13


“Elijah does come first, and restores all things.” (Mark 9:12)

Like many small towns, my hometown of Pella, Iowa, hosts an annual festival. Tulip Time honors Pella’s Dutch heritage with three days of dough-filled goodies, wooden shoes, and of course tulips. Before each of the six parades, the town crier and the Tulip Queen and Royal Court appear in the city square. In previous centuries, public communication came through a town crier, who walked the streets announcing news and events. If a celebration or visiting dignitary was announced, Dutch villagers scrubbed their doorsteps and cobblestone streets in preparation.

During Tulip Time, Pella’s pseudo town crier announces that royalty is coming and joins city officials to inspect the street which, not surprisingly, is always deemed dirty. Citizens in Dutch costumes appear in sort of an old-fashioned flash mob to pour water from metal pails and scrub with coarsely-bristled brooms. I can still hear the loud scratching of a couple hundred of those brooms, as I pushed my share of them over the years – creating wet paths that blended with others until the street was restored to cleanliness.

In Mark 9, the disciples are understandably confused after seeing Moses and Elijah with Jesus, especially when Jesus calls John the Baptist an “Elijah” of their era. Before John’s birth, his father acknowledged him as a prophet who would prepare the way for Jesus. Both the Old Testament Elijah and John the Baptist bluntly preached repentance – to turn back to God by living an obedient life and to be ready for the Messiah. Elijah and John were essentially town criers proclaiming, “Royalty is coming! Clean up your act and get ready!”

I pray, “Create in me a clean heart” (Psalm 51:10). But a truly clean heart requires more than a simple, prayerful rinse. I need the discomfort of a bristled brush to scrub the imbedded dirt of my impatience, insincerity, and indifference. Emmanuel cannot share the same space in my heart with filth like that.

We still await Christ’s coming. What needs scrubbing to restore your heart?

Angie Fuller

at Wednesday, December 20, 2017 | 0 comments
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"What Do I Do Now?" by Charles Smith

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Three: the Benedictus

Tuesday, December 19

2 Kings 2:9-22

"As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out, 'Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!' But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces." (2 Kings 2:11, 12)

As I sit in the darkened hospital room, the glow from the incubators illuminating the faces of the babies I hold in each arm, softly humming tunes that I hope will one day become songs of meaning and lingering memory for them, I think about endings and beginnings. The chaos from the moments before, the fervor and monumental effort required to bring life into this world has faded. The nurses have finished their vitalizing work and left me alone with the newest people I have ever met.

Up to this point I have mostly been a spectator (not complaining), and full credit goes to my spouse Stephanie Swanson for making this peaceful moment possible. But now, like Churchill, I find myself at the end of the beginning. And I’m not quite sure what to do.

This might be how Elisha was feeling in the moments after he witnessed a flaming chariot, pulled by equally flammable horses, descend from the heavens and ascend again in a whirlwind with Elijah, the man Elisha devoted his entire life to following, in tow. That has to be the most dramatic way to end a conversation in history. In that moment Elisha may have been thinking, “What do I do now?” He knew immediately that his life would never be as it was before. Elisha had to find a beginning in this ending, an exposition in the midst of this conclusion.

Advent is a season caught between beginnings and endings. We willingly celebrate the birth of a new life, a life that will change the world, while ultimately knowing, in intimate detail, how that life will end. On the night our twins were born I knew my life had changed forever. They didn’t descend in a chariot of fire but I knew all the same. Their birth was a reminder of a truth I often try to forget: that each day is a chance to start anew, to grieve an ending, and find hope in a beginning. The Benedictus is a canticle of praise, a blessing from a father for his child. We have opportunities each day to sing songs of blessing and peace to all around us as we revel in the space between endings and beginnings.

Posted by Charles Smith at Tuesday, December 19, 2017 | 0 comments
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Time to Tune by Heather Lewis

An Advent Devotion
The Canticles of Christmas
Week Three: the Benedictus

Monday, December 18

Psalm 125

“whose hearts are in tune with you.” Psalm 125: 4b

My senior year of high school I was one of three drum majors for our marching band. As drum majors, one of our jobs was to make sure the band was in tune before we marched onto the field for our performance. Each of us had a tuner—a small black box with a white screen and a needle that moved from side to side. We made our way down lines of the nearly 300 band members, stopping in front of each person to place the tuner in front of them. They would play a note and the needle would swing back and forth, stopping in the middle if they were in tune. If it stopped to the right or left of center, it meant they were sharp or flat.

They needed to make an adjustment so they could be in tune.

As I read Psalm 125, the phrase that stuck out to me was, “O Lord, do good to those who are good, whose hearts are in tune with you.” I love the idea of my heart being in tune with God. Many days it is not. On Dec. 18, I will be up to my ears getting ready for Henry’s birthday (Dec. 21) and finishing preparations for Christmas.

An adjustment will be needed for my heart to be in tune with God.

The most effective way I know to do this is a simple prayer from author Brennan Manning: “Father, I belong to you.” During a chapel service in college, he taught us to breathe in as we said the word “Father” and breathe out during the words “I belong to you.” Five simple words that bring my heart back to center every time– in tune and ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

by Heather Lewis

at Monday, December 18, 2017 | 0 comments
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