Sunday, December 24, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twenty Four

"All is calm, all is bright."
"T'was the night before Christmas and all round the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Have a very Happy Christmas!

Chocolate: Traidcraft Chocolate Coins
Snack: Cookies, milk and carrots
Weather: Snow
Book: Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twenty Three

For many of us, Christmas is about sharing a delicious meal with family and friends. A meal with friends is important as we can see in Matthew:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you.

Remember those who have no one to share with this Christmas or no money for food. Remember them either in prayer or in deed

Chocolate: Maltesers
Number: 15
Mood: Cheery
Tree: Scots pine

Friday, December 22, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twenty Two

Today is the winter solstice. It's quite amusing that several new age pagans sought to celebrate the solstice and turned up at Stonehenge early. The word solstice means ‘sun stands still’. So for a few days around 22nd December (the solstice can occur on either the 21st or 22nd) the sun will appear to rise and set at exactly the same places.

Chocolate: Guylian Sea Shell Bar
Scripture: Isaiah 60:20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
Number: 21
Colour: Frosty white

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twenty One

The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,
"Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
"Blessed is the King of Israel!"

When Jesus arrived at Jerusalem, the whole place was decorated with palm leaves to celebrate his arrival. The Christmas equivalent would be holly and miseltoe. Decorations are all a part of the preparation and atmosphere of Christmas. Soak up that atmosphere today.

Book: Small Island by Andrea Levy
Weather: Fog

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twenty

Not quite sure what my fantasy/ideal car is but I thought the one above may appeal to some of you!. What would you choose if you could ask for anything? Jesus says:
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:7-12)

Not sure he meant a car but if we needed it I guess he would be forthcoming! God wants to give us more than we could want to give the person that we love the most. Why don't you ponder on his generosity today?

Chocolate: Caley's Fairtrade Milk Chocolate
Number: 99
Tree/bush: Holly

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Nineteen

It seems strange to think of new life at this time of year but it isn't all that strange at all. We have had a really mild winter up until now but all of a sudden, we're in the middle of heavy frost and true wintery conditions. Nature did seem very confused: swallows were staying put and not migrating south, flowers are either still in bloom or coming into bloom. Winter is usually associated with death. But we celebrate new life and new hope in Jesus Christ. Just like the snowdrops that peep through the snow, signs of life and hope emerge from the gloom. Even if winter has come late, we know that spring flowers will be on their way. That certainly gives me hope!

Chocolate: White Mice
Number: 25
Mood: Bored

Monday, December 18, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Eighteen

Today's reflection is about being thankful. We don't need to send Jesus a card this Christmas but however we feel about the Christmas season, we need to stop and say thank you for His precious gift to us.

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Chocolate: Cadbury's Fudge- "a finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat!"
Number: 6
Mood: Excitable

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Seventeen

The best part of Christmas? Why giving presents of course!

Love Hearts
Book: The Snowman
Weather: Cloudy

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Sixteen

Jesus lived a simple life. He didn't have a dishwasher, he didn't have designer clothes. I really like the story of the rich young man in the bible (it can be found in Matthew 19: 16-22)

Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."

"Which ones?" the man inquired.

Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honour your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"

Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Now I'm guessing that being perfect is our aim. With presents piling high at this time of year, lets think about gving away rather than receiving.

Chocolate: Tooty Frooties
Number: 5
Mood: Manic

Friday, December 15, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Fifteen

Jesus was sought after by kings and yet he was born in a stable. He was the King of the Universe and yet he lived in poverty. He was and is a King of Contrasts: joy and tears, power and humilty, richness and poverty.

From heaven You came, helpless babe
Entered our world, Your glory veiled
Not to be served but to serve
And give Your life that we might live

There in the garden of tears
My heavy load He chose to bear;
His heart with sorrow was torn,
Yet not my will, but Yours he said.

Come see His hands and his feet,
The scars that speak of sacrifice
Hands that flung stars into space
To cruel nails surrendered

So let us learn now to serve,
And in our lives enthrone Him
Each other's needs to prefer
For it is Christ we're serving

(Graham Kendrick- The Servant King)

Chocolate: Divine White
Number: 12
Colour: Brown

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Fourteen

The Magi are men of mystery to me. They were learned men who studied astronomy and obviously linked the movement of the stars with events upon earth. They knew that a special king had arrived and they left their homes to track him down. Did they all meet on the way? Or had they arranged to go together? It's so amazing that men of such importance wanted to follow a sign to a very special person. Did they know how special he was before they set off? One thing I'm sure of: Jesus is worth following.

Chocolate: Minstrels
Number: 3
Mood: Calm

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Thirteen

Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:1-2

Not only is our God a God of the small and the detail, He is a God of huge scale and vast distances. The fact that he placed a star or comet in the sky as a sign for the wise men to follow is just amazing. A tiny baby born in the universe. And yet He is God of all time and space. Look at the night sky this evening and praise him for the vastness of His creation.

Chocolate: Dubble
Colour: Velvety blue
Weather: Colder

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Twelve

Today's reflection is that of praise for God's creation. Jesus shared his birth place with farm animals. There could have been cattle, sheep or donkeys there and yet our God humbled himself to a birth such as this.

Chocolate: Revels
Scripture: And God said, "Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:24-25
Mood: Thankful
Colour: Black

Monday, December 11, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Eleven

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. 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.
Luke 2:1-5
This is the only gospel account of the journey that Mary and Joseph had to do and with a little research have found that it was about 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem and they could have done the journey in about 4 days but it is more likely that it took them a week. That's a lot of travelling! Luckily I don't have to do much travelling over the Christmas period although this time next week, I will be going to London to stay with my mum for a few days. It's a hundred mile journey but going by train cuts the journey time to 2 hours.
Today's reflection is on all the journeys travelled in this Christmas period. I pray that they are safe and refreshing.

Walnut Whip
Number: 44
Place: Forum Ice Rink
Colour: Dusty pink

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Ten

Yesterday was a little bit gloomy and so I wanted to focus on a positive of the Christmas story. The inn keeper who welcomed in Mary and Joseph was a great guy. Imagine being turned down by every inn and imagine the relief when you are offered a shelter. It makes me wonder whether Mary was already having contractions and traditionally it was already night when they knocked at his door. He was probably really grumpy and tired calling up to his wife "Who on earth could this be at this time of night?" He probably thought it would be really easy to get rid of his unwelcome callers as all his rooms were full but then he saw the tiredness, worry and pain on Mary's face and his heart softened. All we know is that he let them stay in the stable but I'm wondering if he helped out a little bit more than that. Maybe he didn't, maybe he even charged them for the priviledge of staying with animals but with Magi and shepherds visiting, I can't help but think he must have got involved some more.
Think about welcomes today. Opening a door and inviting someone in is special.

Chocolate: Caramac
Animal: Donkey
Number: 119
Colour: Blood red

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Nine

Winter is very picturesque. The photo above is beautiful. BUT winter is also deathly cruel. Stay outside in the wrong clothes in the scene above and you would die of hypothermia. The trees look dead, there's not a living creature to be found.
The Christmas story is one of hardship: a baby born- where? a palace? a home? No! In a stable, a place fit for animals. And does Jesus live a normal life as a baby? No! He has a king try to kill him so he becomes a refugee.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up," he said, "take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him." So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son." When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.
However we try to sanitise the Christmas story, the manger was rough and splintered, one of the gifts given to Jesus was myrrh which was an embalming material and a king wanted Jesus dead. Cute it isn't.
Let's try and remember the grittier side of Christmas today.

Fry's Turkish Delight
Weather: Always winter, never Christmas
Book: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Friday, December 08, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Eight

On a practical note today, I'm thinking of how we need to make space if we anticipate new stuff coming in. Clearing out the old to make way for the new. In Mark 2:21-22, Jesus says:
"No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins."

You could take this on a practical level and clear out stuff before the new presents arive or on a spiritual level. I'll leave it to you!

Chocolate: Orange Smarties
Place: Sweden
Mood: Tired

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Seven

I remember as a child that waiting for Christmas to come was a frustrating affair! The build up can be so slow especially when shops have their Christmas items for sale from September. But as an adult waiting for Christmas isn't an issue- it seems to speed towards me at an alarming rate! Waiting for gifts is both exciting and frustrating but at least we know how long we have to wait. Today's verse is Acts 1: 4-5 which is:
On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

Jesus was going away and sending a gift. The disciples didn't know when though. And the waiting game was dangerous for them as they were known followers of Jesus. So they crammed into a room and waited. I always wonder what they did as they waited: prayed? fasted? played silly games to pass the time?
We're lucky as we can call on the Holy Spirit at any time without that period of waiting. Today's task is to spend time waiting for the Holy Spirit and noting what difference He makes in your life.

Chocolate: Crispy M and M's
Book: Holes by Louis Sacher
Number: 12

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Six

Matthew 3: 1-12

In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' "

John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The axe is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Turkey like the one above doesn't just happen- preparation is key. For a perfect Christmas lunch there is a lot of back ground work. Sprouts need peeling, stuffing made, poppies artfully arranged in the background- Oh no! Wait that's only in the picture above! We often forget the importance of preparation in our hearts. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, we need time to prepare ourselves for the true meaning of Christmas.

Chocolate: Green and Black's Maya Gold
Number: 4
Colour: White

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Five

Matthew 21:14-17

The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they were indignant.

"Do you hear what these children are saying?" they asked him.
"Yes," replied Jesus, "have you never read,
" 'From the lips of children and infants
you have ordained praise?"

And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.

I don't believe that children love Christmas because they are out for what they can get. I think that children realise the magic of spending time with family, eating together and celebrating something bigger. Of course there are presents too! Children were shouting in praise of Jesus and what he had done in the passage above: the teachers of the law however were indignant. Jesus said we need to be like children in order to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Try and ponder today what makes Christmas magical: the message of hope for mankind, taking time out and giving.

Chocolate: Hotel Chocolat's Mini Slab Rocky Road Milk
Colour: Red
Mood: Excited
Number: 2

Monday, December 04, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Four

John 1: 5-9
The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
We are very privelidged to be able to have light at the touch of a button. In these dark winter months, eletricity is a true blessing. So in a culture where light was not so readily forthcoming, they would truly understand the hope that light generates in the darkness. John was not the light himself but he was able to lead others to the True Light: Jesus. Try turning out your lights tonight with a candle to hand. Notice what detail you can pick out when the candle is lit and reflect that our world is like your darkened room and that Jesus is the candle. There are still dark places but our attention and focus is surely the Light. If we reflect Him then we too will shine and the whole world will be illuminated.

Chocolate: Thorntons Continental
Weather: Meek and mild
Colour: Slate grey

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Three

One of the highlights of Christmas for me as a child was watching Blue Peter making the Advent Crown from wire coat hangers and flame resistant tinsel (follow the link and make your own!) Although to avoid being sued these days, instead of a candle being added each week, a bauble is added to the crown to mark the passage through advent. What a shame! I never did make one but lighting a candle to mark a milestone in advent has always been a joyful thing to me. This is the first Sunday of advent: either resurrect your advent crown, buy or make a wreath as above or just group four candles together and light one today to show that this is the first Sunday of Advent.

Chocolate: Bounty
Colour: Leaf green
Weather: Stormy

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advent Calendar Day Two

Christmas cards are a tradition dating back to Victorian times. The first commercial Christmas cards were commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in London, 1843, and featured an illustration by John Callcott Horsley. The picture, of a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial, but the idea was shrewd: Cole had helped introduce the Penny Post three years earlier. A batch of 1000 cards was printed and they sold for a shilling each The idea caught on and the industry is now worth millions across the globe. But it is worth considering the environmental impact that sending cards has, which is considerable. Add this moral dilemma to the dilemma presented in the diagram below and it's a wonder that any are ever sent.

Dave Walker at

But greetings ARE important...

Chocolate: Crunchie
Scripture: Luke 1: verse 44 "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy."
Mood: Anticipation

Friday, December 01, 2006

Advent Calendar Day One

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Luke Chapter 1: 26-38
The Christmas story features a lot of heavenly beings and Gabriel starts it all off with his special announcements. I don't believe that angels are particularly special or worthy of our attention but they are fascinating as they are strange beings, messengers of God. How very frightening for the teenage Mary to have one visit! Today's reflection is about the news that God speaks into our hearts today: that His Son is to be made flesh and born upon earth. That is what advent is about. Mary had nine months to ponder it and we have 24 days.

Chocolate: Galaxy Truffle
Colour: Purple
Number: 3