Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trying On Advent - The Second Sunday


As a child, my family and our church observed the season of Advent. There was definitely a  sense of anticipation in the air and I knew it had something to do with God and Christmas.  But, I spent most of my Advent time preparing the way I imagine most children did… anticipating the arrival of Santa and presents.

Fast forward: 

This year during the second week of Advent, I happen to be in downtown Chicago, IL with two of my sisters.  It is a far cry from a place of quiet preparation.  For four days I have been working with my sister in her business… selling her beautiful, warm, woolen wares alongside 900 other talented artisans who are selling their wares at an exclusive art show held in an enormous convention center.  I have been engulfed in one of the busiest “holiday” selling and buying seasons.  No one here seems to have heard there was an economic downturn.


In his book, Discovering Advent, Mark D. Roberts reminds us that “the main point of Advent is growing into a deeper, truer relationship with God. It’s sharing our yearning and hope with our community of faith. It’s getting in touch with our need for a Savior and our yearning for the kingdom of God. In Advent, by putting ourselves in the place of those who, centuries ago, longed for a Messiah to set them free, we get our hearts ready to be renewed by the good news of Christmas: “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!”
Roberts details how during Advent, (which is Latin for the word coming,) “Our preparation includes many things:

We remember Israel’s hope for the coming of God’s Messiah to save, to forgive, and to restore.  
We remember our hope for the second coming of Jesus.
We remember our need for a Savior to save us from our sins.
We prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas into our world . . . and into our hearts.

Today we focus on the coming of Christ who brings forgiveness from our sins.”

Roberts, Mark D. (2011-11-07). Discovering Advent: How to Experience the Power of Waiting on God at Christmastime (Kindle Location  498-501; 575-583; 586). Patheos. Kindle Edition.

It’s no coincidence that the first time I decide to observe Advent in my adult writing life, I have come face to face with Robert’s suggestion to focus on seeking forgiveness during this second  week of Advent.  For me, this is definitely not the easy part of Advent.   Seeking forgiveness is difficult no matter what day it is or church I belong to.  I am truly thankful for how God provides the way for forgiveness. 
Here again, I am reminded this week of the lessons I have learned in raising monarch butterflies.  These are a few observations I’ve made and how they relate to forgiveness... 
Four or five times through the course of its life, the monarch caterpillar crawls away from its milkweed plant and remains completely still for two to three days.  It does not eat.  It does not move. Then slowly, very slowly, it begins to move forward through the molting process.  In an undulating movement that takes time… it leaves its old skin behind.  It still looks and acts just like a caterpillar.  But, something has taken place inside.   If I truly retreat to be alone with God, I know I come away looking the same… but, hopefully, I am changed inside.  This is spiritual transformation... my trust-formation.  Little by little, God challenges me, changes me.  It is not easy.  It takes work.  Retreating allows me to  look at myself, listen to God, and ask him for his strength and courage to change, to leave behind old habits, behaviors, thoughts and sin. 
This caterpillar has just crawled out of its skin and left the old behind. 

… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Hebrews12: 1 NIV

… let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.   Hebrews 12:1 ESV

After crawling out of the old skin that doesn’t fit any longer, the last step of molting fascinated me the most.  The caterpillar uses one of its front legs to flick off the remaining old skin around its face.  The dead face mask looks somewhat like a tiny catcher’s mask.  I wondered as I grow in Christ, what old or false identities must I remove in order to reflect Christ more?  

For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 
2 Corinthians 3:17-18 NLT

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.  Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.    James 4:8-10 NLT

Psalm 130:7-8
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
I wait for you Lord.
In this waiting, help me to retreat and reflect…
to shed behaviors  that do not please you.
Forgive my sins.
Help me to live to reflect Your likeness.
Thank you for your cleansing forgiveness, Lord.
Keep redeeming every part of me,
Strengthen me to change…
for I am your Israel.
Come Lord Jesus.

Patricia Spreng


  1. Forgiveness can be tough -- for both the forgiver and the "forgivee." Sometimes, when we've been wronged, we like to wallow in feeling like a victim. But it's just as wrong. Good post, Patricia.

  2. I've been blessed in the coming here today ... by your thoughts and prayer and images.

  3. This is so moving Patricia. I love the analogies you've drawn. They are just perfect. I'm reading through this book too, trying to learn about Advent after all these years of knowing Him. It's a delight to walk through this with you.

  4. Oh my goodness, my golly, Pat-girl - this is just fabulousness. The photos make me catch my breath - especially that tiny catcher's mask falling off. In the work I'm doing to become a spiritual director, we spend a lot of time learning about the 'false self,' that 'mask' that we present to the world (and sometimes to ourselves) that doesn't reflect our authentic selves and surely doesn't reflect the imago dei within. This is just a lovely small tale from nature that illustrates that truth perfectly. Thank you so much!

  5. This journey is taking me to a peaceful place. Thank you, Pat.

  6. nice...thanks for taking us deeper into advent patricia...i feel refreshed myself having read it..

    and thank you for the prayers...


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