Snow-An Advent Journey-Written and Narrated by Pastor Sid Robbins
Pastor Sid Robbins has written an advent study in keeping with our snow theme this year. There are several ways you can participate: both Sunday School classes will offer the study during their regular class time at 9am in rooms #105 and #103, Mark and Lyn Polk will lead the study on Tuesday evenings at 7pm in room #103, and Kala will lead the study on Wed. mornings at 10am in room #103. You don’t need to sign up, just show up!
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.
As we begin this Advent study, I make the confession that I have a hard time being quiet. It is not that I mind the absence of sound, but that I prefer the atmosphere and stimulation of noise, activity and entertainment. As I write this study I am listening to some energetic, fast-paced music. The pace of our world has increased to the point where we are constantly multitasking. I receive a text, answer a phone call, write a bit and then have a conversation and all the while the music is playing. Sometimes I watch TV, answer emails, have a conversation and sort through the mail at the same time. Being quiet and thinking and praying with no distractions does not come naturally to me. I have to make an intentional effort to make time and space to focus my thoughts on God in my life and in the world.
When I do force myself to be quiet, it changes my mental state. I’m able to focus my thoughts on one or two things. I begin hearing sounds I would normally disregard. I hear the sounds of family, the sounds of neighbors, and the sounds of nature. I begin to be lifted outside myself to be aware of what is happening in the lives of others. Sometimes it is simply being aware of the neighbor mowing his grass or leaving for work. Other times it is the quiet knowledge that others in other houses are facing struggles, trying to navigate life and in their own time and place praying and trying to connect to God.
uses are facing struggles, trying to navigate life and in their own time and place praying and trying to connect to God.
When it snows the usual sound patterns are disrupted. The falling flakes disrupt the way sound travels. When it piles up on the grass, trees, houses and roads the snow absorbs sound rather than reflecting it. Perhaps there is also less activity while it snows. People and critters try to find shelter. Unless it is an outright blizzard the world can seem quieter and more peaceful when it snows.
How does a posture of quiet and peacefulness influence your spiritual life?
The Old Testament book of 1st Kings often describes situations where the prophets of God are in conflict with the rulers and people of Israel. Usually the kings and people are portrayed as worshipping other gods in addition to Yahweh. Not only do they go to the temple to celebrate the Jewish festivals initiated in the Law of Moses, but they also go to the hills and valleys to the altars and shrines of Baal and Asherah. King Ahab and his queen Jezebel are notorious for following Baal and supporting the priests of Baal, while persecuting and killing the prophets of Yahweh.
Read 1 Kings 19:1-18
What is the cause for the crisis in Elijah’s life?
In his efforts to cope with the crisis in his life, what does Elijah do first?
Given his complete belief that God is real and powerful, does it seem strange that Elijah prays and his prayer is that he wants to die? How does God respond?
How have crises in your life affected your prayers? How have they affected your view of God?
Reread 1 Kings 19:11-14
Have there been times when you felt like crawling into a cave?
Why would God come in a whisper and not in wind, earthquakes or fire?
Do you experience God more often in noise or in quiet?
PART OF THE GROUP
A big part of church life happens in groups. We have meetings, gatherings and services. There are often a number of people around. We interact and relate differently in a group than we do one-on-one. Hearing the experiences, voices, opinions and struggles of others can be enlightening, stimulating and thought-provoking. But sometimes it is helpful to talk one-on-one to delve a little deeper, and connect on something more than a superficial level. Sometimes it is important to find time and space, even in church with people around, to lose ourselves in our own thoughts, struggles and prayers. Even with music or conversations or prayers or sermons going on, we can find a quiet moment.
Some people are energized by being around other people, but some of us need some alone time to recharge. Some of us occasionally need quiet time just to function. We usually refer to this as being introverted or extroverted. Each of us needs to find that balance of interaction and quiet to enhance our spiritual lives.
In Matthew’s gospel Jesus is often described as being in a crowd. People seek him out wherever he is. In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus and his disciples are surrounded by people wanting and needing not only spiritual direction, but also food. Through Jesus’ power, 5000 people are fed. Providing for five thousand needy people would definitely take a toll on a person’s energy. Even though the experience is a triumph, and most people are amazed, Jesus finds himself needing to recharge. He needs to be alone - even away from the disciples, his closest companions and staunchest supporters.
Read Matthew 14:22-24
Why would Jesus be so quick to disperse the crowd and put the disciples out on a boat?
How is praying by yourself different than praying in a group?
The scripture does not say what Jesus prayed about. Take a moment to speculate about Jesus’ prayers.
Like feeding the 5000, Christmas is often about feasting and interacting with lots of people. Is it important to find a few moments of peace and solitude like Jesus did?
Both feeding the 5000 and walking on the water are some of Jesus’ most famous and important miracles as recorded in the gospels. What does it say about Jesus’ spiritual life and about the nature of faith that he stopped to pray alone in the midst of performing these miracles?
A LONG WALK
When I was growing up, I enjoyed walking around a county wildlife park near my parents’ house. I particularly enjoyed going there in the snow. I would find all kinds of tracks in the snow left by rabbits, squirrels, deer, raccoons and sometimes turkeys. I enjoyed walking along the frozen creeks, seeing how the ice and snow transformed the muddy banks and rocks into some kind of wonderland. I sometimes stayed out so long and ventured so far out into the creek that I would return home with the bottom of my pant legs frozen stiff. Being alone to discover the wonders of nature had a profound effect on my view of God and creation.
During Advent and Christmas I often focus on the major themes and activities of the Christmas story. There is an inn full of noisy people. Some wise men and their entourage hustle into town. There is a group of smelly sheep, earthy shepherds, singing angels and a birth experience that was bound to be noisy and probably unpleasant for a first-time mother.
This year I invite you to think about Joseph and Mary’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. There must have been the hectic activity of packing and planning. Who was going to watch the house? Which road would they travel? For a time they must have talked about the journey that was ahead. Where would they stay? Where and what would they eat? Who might they see along the way? They must have stopped from time to time to point out some interesting sight or scene. “Look at that!” They must have talked about the baby. When and where would it be born? But for many miles they must have walked in silence, lost in their own thoughts. Both Mary and Joseph must have thought about the journey, about their child, about their life together, about their future. As they walked together, but in silence, they must have heard the gravel crunching under their feet, the wind blowing across the countryside, the occasional bird or animal making noise. Did they voice their fears to each other? Did they talk about their hopes and dreams? Or, in the quiet of their own thoughts, did they seek God’s direction for the days ahead?
Read Luke 2:1-7
In reading these words and thinking about Joseph and Mary’s journey, what are your thoughts about that trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem?
What might have been Joseph and Mary’s prayers as they walked along the road?
When facing a crisis or living through some difficult times, is it important to have some quiet time?
Is it easier for you to find God in moments of quiet or in moments of activity? Is it easier to “hear” God in a group or by yourself? Are your experiences of God different depending on who you are with?
How might you find some quiet time this Christmas season? What are the things most important for you to pray about during this time of year?
God of wind, earthquake and fire, God of whisper and snow, help us to find your presence during this season. Lift our spirits and give us strength to face the challenges of life. Be with our loved ones that they might feel love and joy. Be with all of us that we might know you better. May the journeys we take and the quiet we find be in your love, grace and peace. Amen.