Thursday, November 17, 2011

The best gifts given are...

Image from Newsong.

The Advent and Christmas season is one of my most favorite times of the year. In the past several years, I've become more familiar with the liturgical church calendar which is, "...the celebration throughout the year of the mysteries of the Jesus birth, life, death, and Resurrection in such a way that the entire year becomes a 'year of the Lord's grace'. Thus the cycle of the liturgical year and the great feasts constitute the basic rhythm of the Christian's life of prayer, with its focal point at Easter.".

It has been a blessing for me to be introduced to this cycle in the last ten years and I've enjoyed thinking about and experiencing the holidays, seasons and focus on Jesus' life throughout the year. Every day of the year, in the liturgical calendar, points to the life, work and ministry of Jesus. By taking part in this cycle, I feel like I've become more aware of Jesus' presence in my own life - every day of each year. All in all, I think that this visual connection throughout the year is a great tool for helping bring spiritual matters and growth more into daily life.

Through this introduction of the liturgical church year, I've discovered a gift that has given me a greater connection to my own spiritual formation on a daily basis.
Gift giving and receiving are a big parts of this holiday season. If Christians reflect on the original reasons for Christmas gift giving, we are pointed to Jesus life, death and Resurrection. This was and is God's ultimate unselfish, loving gift to humanity! Simply put, God gives us these amazing gifts and we give to others in response to what we've received. If we take a moment to consider the spiritual gifts God gives, we can be sure to grow and use them in our faith - all year round!

As I mentioned, any tool that helps bring spiritual matters into the space of everyday life is a great gift! Throughout this year, First Lutheran Church has been making an intentional effort to provide opportunities for adults, youth and children to learn about, experience, try out, and be provided with resources to help our community to grow spiritually. We have learned: new ways to pray, how to turn an art project into a spiritual practice, encouraged parents and children to take more responsibility for their own prayer and devotion times, given challenges to read Scripture on a daily basis and time to discuss how this process is going in group devotions. The church has been working to help each person to take steps to grow in their faith and find prayer and devotional practices that work for them. In the new year, we will be taking bigger steps to provide more weekly resources for faith growth and development for all ages.

While there are many wonderful groups, organizations, and clubs that provide activities to participate in and ways to serve - their call is different than the church's. We, as Christians and representatives of the church have something unique to give to our community and world - a space to feel welcome, a space to ask faith and life questions, a space to grow closer to God, and a space where we are not left alone on our journey. The spiritual gifts that are introduced and made a part of our lives, are gifts that never wear out, go out of style or break. These gifts from God, last eternally.

The church's greatest gift is to provide the space, time and opportunity to be introduced to God and grow in our faith, so that each day of the year is one day closer to better knowing and loving Jesus. Spaces like: Sunday Worship, Sunday School, Confirmation, Youth Group, Bible Study, Service Projects, Inter-faith Clubs, Small Group Fellowships, Camp and Church Retreats are spaces where a faith life is fostered can be compared to 'Santa's workshop'. Everyone who is on hand helps with assembly of the gifts, tools are provided there to develop needed, wanted and desired gifts that come out of the workshop to shine God's light, hope and love into the world - as nothing else can.

The spiritual gifts that Jesus brings into our lives are not only important during this holiday season, but taking note of the season can help us to refocus and refuel our need and efforts to grow closer to God. May you receive some tools this season to help you and yours grow in faith and shine God's light into the world - just like the liturgical calendar - 365 days a year!

God's grace and blessing -