Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This First Week in Advent

Sunday, at Chestnut Street United Methodist Church (I LOVE YOU GUYS!), we took time during our normal service routine to bless all the family advent wreaths. Every child processed in, their tiny hands holding up various shapes and sizes of Advent wreaths, lavishly decorated in elementary school style and complete with the standard candles: three purple, one pink, and one white. They are such simple symbols - a tradition that is ingrained in our church and our lives. This year, that little wreath has already impacted my little family in a much bigger way than I had imagined!

      As Will and I lit our prophet candle this evening, we talked about how the prophets were sent to prepare God's people for the coming Messiah. We discussed how prayer, reading our Bibles, and taking an honest inventory of our hearts is how we prepare our hearts and souls for the coming celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas as well as His second coming when He will come back for His people. We even talked about different ways we could "take our thoughts captive" and how we might go about changing the attitudes of our hearts by seeking humbling ourselves, praying, and seeking God. These Advent wreaths help us have such wonderful dinner conversations and traditions are such good teaching tools! This, however, was the part of our conversation that touched my soul.

       The question my son had for me was how to get past our sorrows and hurts so that we can experience the love and joy of Christ. What a question for such a small boy! My answer came in the form of :

2 Chronicles 7:14 
- "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 will forgive their sin and heal their land." 

Praise God for His Holy Word to light the way for stumbling parents such as me! We talked about how praying, reading our Bibles, and taking an honest inventory of our hearts can help us prepare our hearts and souls both for the celebration of Christ's birth at Christmas, and for His second coming when He will come back for His people. Then came the million dollar question...
       My son asked me how he could get past his anger, hurt, and resentment caused by his father. There are times when being a parent is truly difficult and that was one of those times. It is so hard to guide such a small heart through such heartache. Does any parent truly know what to say?  So I did what I always do when I am confronted by a question for which I have no ready answer. I said, "Let's see what God has to say about that." It was time for Matthew 10.
Matthew 10:29-31
- "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."

       I told my son that all the heartaches we feel throughout life have to pass through the Father's hands before they can ever touch us, so He knows what we are going through and how we feel. He promises to walk through it with us, and when necessary, to carry us. I told him that in God's hands, even the hurtful things in life can be given a purpose that turns out for our good - even if we can't see it right now. I explained to him, however, that these blessings don't just happen on their own; we have a duty to perform in order to recieve the promises that God offers.
       I explained one of the most difficult scriptures to swallow, especially for children of broken homes. It is, however, one of the most important scriptures for us to understand.

Matthew 10:34-39
- "'Do not think that I came to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' He who loves father and mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.'"

I told him that this does not mean that he has to hate his father, but he needs to make certain that his anger and resentment toward his father does not become a stumbling block to his faith. I explained to him that harboring bitterness, anger, and resentment blocks the love and joy of Christ from entering our hearts and that we can not faithfully serve him in such a state. We must not let anything hinder our relationship with God and that if he did not feel a closeness with our Heavenly Father, then that is an indicator that something may be wrong in his spirit. He seemed to understand that and to accept it, but something was still on his mind.
       He said that he wanted to do what I had said, but that he didn't know how to get past the hurt. He asked me how he could stop dwelling so much on his pain. I told him that he must learn to take his thoughts captive - that every time he had a bad thought, he should grab hold of it and change it into a good one. This statement brought a very funny look to his face. I explained further by giving him an example. I told him that when he thought of what his father had done to our family, that he should immediately begin to pray for his father instead of nursing the hurt. That way, instead of building more hurt and resentment, he would give God the opportunity to work on his heart and heal it. And who knows, maybe God may hear his cry and bring his father to salvation. However, even though his father may not ever bow his knee to God, I assured Will that his prayers will be heard and that God would use that time together with him to ease his burden bit by bit until it would become something that he could manage. All in all, I think our first week of Advent has been very fulfilling and has gone far to breaking down barriers in his heart and in mine.

Prepare ye the way!

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