Thursday, November 26, 2009

Advent Calendar 2009: Instruments of Peace (Version 2)

This is a work in progress...this is the first full version I've posted, but I'm going to be working out the rough places over the next couple of days, so it will probably change. I'm also not sure how much I can refer to Alan Paton's book Instrument of Thy Peace without violating any copyrights...or how specific I will be able to get with "practical-type" activities. Anyway, this is a draft: it's here for you to use as you can.

This year’s Advent focus is Peace.

Words from an MCC peace project:

Peace is a choice . . .
1) pray for each other
. . . remember that we are all children of God
2) imagine a peaceful world
. . . change begins with a dream
3) listen with care
. . . let your listening change you
4) learn forgiveness
. . . remember the past, turn to the future
5) speak truth
. . . using passion and compassion
6) value diversity
. . . celebrate differences and things shared
7) build fairness
. . . give a voice to those who have none
8) care for the earth
. . . buy wisely, use less
9) live gratefully
. . . be content with just enough
10) teach nonviolence
. . . oppose violence wherever you see it
Live peace . . . as Jesus did.

We will be using two main resources: Instrument of Thy Peace, by Alan Paton (the 1968 edition, since that’s what we have), and the current issue of Rejoice!, a quarterly devotional magazine published jointly by Kindred Productions and Faith & Life Resources, publishers serving Mennonite Brethren and Mennonite Church congregations. There are many other peace-related resources online and available from Christian publishers, as well as books on the life of St. Francis, so please make use of whatever is available to you.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.


“….as Paton shows, even in these drastic circumstances St. Francis’s prayer remains valid, if only as a focus for the doubts and questioning to which history’s overbearing ways give rise. There is a world beyond history, as there is a hope beyond both victory and defeat and a love beyond justice.”—Malcom Muggeridge, in his Foreword to Instrument of Thy Peace

“I write this book….for those who seek not so much to learn upon God as to be the active instruments of his peace.”—Alan Paton, Prologue to Instrument of Thy Peace

Preparation Activities:

Prepare an Advent wreath or other symbols for your devotional times. (Don’t forget to buy new candles!)

Prepare any special containers you like for Advent giving. This year we have a bag of blue and white beads and other decorations to glue on blue craft-foam boxes.

Sunday, November 29, 2009: Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace.

Light the first candle on the Advent wreath.

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 11:1-2

SING: Wonderful, by Sister Miram Therese Winter, found in Gold, Incense and Myrrh

Now the emptiness of ages proclaims the promised birth.
Hope to help unhappy hearts.
Love to light the earth.
And He shall be called Wonderful!
He shall be called Peace....


READ: Instrument of Thy Peace, Chapter 1, and/or the opening Editorial from the December/January/February issue of Rejoice!

From Paton’s text: “We are not passive recipients but active instruments. The right relationship between man and God is instantly restored.”

SING: Hark the Herald Angels Sing (God and sinners reconciled)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

TO DO: Alan Paton challenges us to be “active in compassion.” What are some specific ways we can actively show compassion during this season?


Monday, November 30, 2009: “No one is too weak, too vile….’”

SING: More songs from Gold, Incense, and Myrrh; or traditional Advent songs such as “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” and “Hark the Glad Sound.”

READ: Continue to study Chapter 1. Read the poem on page 6 of Rejoice!

From Paton’s text:

“God moves in his own mysterious ways, but a great deal of the time he moves through us. And it is because we are not there that so many do not believe in God’s love.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: We are asking God to show us where love and hope and faith are needed, and to use us to bring them to those places. What can we do this week to act as God’s instruments?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009: To Be God’s Instrument

SING: Favourite Advent songs, e.g. Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus

READ: Parts of Exodus chapters 3 and 4, the verses where Moses is trying to persuade God that he isn’t fit for the task of leading the Israelites out of Egypt.

Also read pages 19-21 in the text (chapter 2), or read today OR yesterday’s devotion from Rejoice! (The reading for November 30th relates more to the theme of conflict and peace.)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

SING: The Advent of Our God; read or sing Psalm 24.

READ the story on page 21: One day as St. Francis was returning from his prayers in the wood, Brother Masseo met him, and wishing to test how humble he was…. [This, along with other stories used in Paton’s book, is from The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi, which is available online here. The story told here is from Chapter X, found here.]

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: Paton writes, “may the need of others always be remembered by me.” What needs are around you right now?

Thursday, December 3, 2009: Where there is hatred

READ: Paton chapter 3, pages 23, 24; and/or one of the devotional readings from Rejoice!

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 9:2-7

SING: Glory to God (Gold, Incense and Myrrh)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: Read and discuss Choice #10 from “Peace is a choice.”

Friday, December 4, 2009: Where there is injury

SING: O Come, O Come Emmanuel

READ: "It came to the ears of Francis that a bitter quarrel had arisen…" (p. 25) and/or the Rejoice! Reading for December 6 (adapt as needed), and/or another story about a quarrel.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

DO: “Imagine a peaceful world.” (Choice #2) Show your vision in writing, art, crafts, or…?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

SING: The Huron Carol

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:7-8

READ: from Paton’s text, chapter 4

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!



Sunday, December 6, 2009: Where there is doubt

Light the second candle on the Advent wreath.

SING: One Small Child (David Meece)

READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 2 (Daily Grace for Family Ways), and/or pages 32-34 (chapter 5) in Paton.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 9:14-24; John 14:8-10; John 13:34-35

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 7, 2009: It is in pardoning

SING: Any favourite Advent songs.

SCRIPTURES: choose passages dealing with forgiveness.

READ: Paton chapter 6. In this chapter Paton discusses how the sequence “offence-punishment” differs from the Christian idea of “offence-forgiveness-restoration.” “We must even eschew the use of that fascinating statement, I forgive but I do not forget.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009: Hope


READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 1 (Home Security), and/or page 41 and the rest of chapter 7.

“When I am tempted to despair….I pray or speak or read this prayer of St. Francis….and I decide to act on it, or I should rather say, I am moved to act on it. From that moment the temptation to despair is ended. Therefore I am in this unrepayable debt.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

SING: God Himself Is With Us

READ: Chapter 8, to partway down page 49.

“There is no point in believing in the Christian God at all if we do not believe that we are in his care.”

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 6:25-29

DO: Discuss Choice 7: Build fairness, give a voice to those who have none. The Old Testament prophets came down very hard on people who neglected to do this! How can we make our voices heard on behalf of those who suffer?

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Thursday, December 10, 2009: Despair

SING: Any favourite Advent songs, or maybe Bunyan’s Pilgrim Hymn.

READ: the passage on page 49, from The Three Sillies, about the girl who saw the axe hanging from the cellar ceiling and worried that if she someday had a son, it might someday fall on his head.

READ: the passage from Pilgrim’s Progress, also starting on p. 49:

“Looking very narrowly before him as he went, he espied two Lions in the way. Now, thought he, I see the dangers that Mistrust and Timorous were driven back by….Then he was afraid, and thought also himself to go back after them, for he thought nothing but death was before him: But the Porter at the lodge, whose name is Watchful, perceiving that Christian made a halt as if he would go back, cried unto him, saying, Is thy strength so small? Fear not the Lions, for they are chained, and are placed there for trial of faith where it is, and for discovery of those that have none. Keep in the midst of the Path, and no hurt shall come unto thee. “

READ: the rest of chapter 8 (it’s short).

“To commit oneself to God is to make oneself an instrument of his peace.”

DO: Discuss Choice 3: Let your listening change you. Try some fun listening games.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Friday, December 11, 2009:

SING: Sing of Birth (Gold, Incense and Myrrh)

SCRIPTURE: Luke 22:39-46 (the story of Gethsemane)

READ: Rejoice! for Dec. 7 (“One is Coming”), and/or read Paton chapter 9, including the story about St. Francis, “The Leper on the Umbrian Plain.”

“So there it all is, an agony of grief and fear, a rousing of oneself to face the ultimate ordeal, an act of peace to repair an act of violence….No wonder that Francis of Assisi so loved this man, and followed him as his Lord and Brother.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

SING: The Christ-child Lay on Mary’s Lap (G.K. Chesterton)

SCRIPTURE: 1 John 4:18

READ: Rejoice for Dec. 8 (“What You See”), and/or the rest of chapter 10.

“Francis….[ran into some robbers who] rushed out at him and demanded to know who he was, and what was his business. Full of joy he replied to them, ‘I am the herald of the Great King.’ So with loud laughter they stripped off the cloak that Bishop Guido had given him, and threw him into a snowdrift. He crawled out of the snow, and dressed now only in his hairshirt, went singing on his way.”

POEM TO READ: “New Prince, New Pomp”, by Robert Southwell
Behold a silly tender Babe, in freezing winter night;
In homely manger trembling lies, alas a piteous sight:
The inns are full, no man will yield this little Pilgrim bed,
But forced He is with silly beasts, in crib to shroud His head.
Despise Him not for lying there, first what He is enquire:
An orient pearl is often found, in depth of dirty mire;
Weigh not His crib, His wooden dish, nor beasts that by Him feed:
Weigh not His mother's poor attire, nor Joseph's simple weed.
This stable is a Prince's court, the crib His chair of state:
The beasts are parcel of His pomp, the wooden dish His plate.
The persons in that poor attire, His royal liveries wear,
The Prince Himself is come from heaven, this pomp is prized there.
With joy approach, O Christian wight, do homage to thy King,
And highly prize this humble pomp, which He from heaven doth bring.

DO: Discuss Choice 8: Care for the earth, buy wisely, use less. How do we make this a part of our celebrations?

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Light the third Advent candle.

SING: Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 1:10-18, Matthew 25:34-40

READ: Paton chapter 11, pages 66-67.

“It is not reserve but indifference, it is not shyness but coldness, that is the offence against love….To love means to bring one’s whole life under discipline….the offering of oneself to be made an instrument of God’s peace.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 14, 2009:

SING: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

READ: Finish p. 67. Read the passage from The Brothers Karamazov on page 68. Finish the chapter.

“It is the time of the Inquisition, and suddenly Christ is seen in the streets. He is recognized and brought to the Grand Inquisitor, who throws Him into prison, intending to kill Him also. The Grand Inquisitor speaks to Him:

“I too prized the freedom with which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among Thy elect….But I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work….I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us. For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou….”

When the Inquisitor ceased speaking he waited some time for his Prisoner to answer him. His silence weighed down upon him. He saw that the Prisoner had listened intently all the time, looking gently in his face and evidently not wishing to reply. The old man longed for him to say something, however bitter and terrible. But He suddenly approached the old man in silence and softly kissed him on his bloodless aged lips. That was all his answer. The old man shuddered. His lips moved. He went to the door, opened it, and said to Him: 'Go, and come no more... come not at all, never, never!' And he let Him out into the dark alleys of the town.”

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 15, 2009: In the world, but not of it

MUSIC TO LISTEN TO: “Welcome to Our World” (search YouTube for this)

SCRIPTURE: Read the quotes (mostly from John) that begin Chapter 12, e.g. John 12:47, 15:19, 17:15, 3:16; also 1 John 2:15

READ: Chapter 12. This chapter has some tough theological questions in it, and you may or may not agree with Alan Paton’s conclusions here. Paton discusses possible contradiction in the Scriptures quoted: is the world a place “to be lived in, to be redeemed, to be illumined?” Or is it “irredeemable, the natural enemy of goodness and faith, a place not to be loved?” He discusses the problem of emphasizing outward morality over love: “Today the worst sins to me are cruelty and coldness. Cowardice is no doubt contemptible, but cruelty is horrible.”

DO: Discuss the choice to live gratefully and be content with just enough.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 16, 2009: Respectability

SING: All Poor Men & Humble

SCRIPTURE: Luke 7:36-50; Philippians 2:5-11

READ: Chapter 13

“These young [hippies]….reject war and violence….They in their way are also in the world, but not of it….Do they perhaps refuse to turn to us because of our respectability, because we are too much conformed to the world?....”

DO: Discuss Choice 6: Value diversity, celebrate differences & things shared.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

SING: O Come All Ye Faithful

READ: Chapter 14: Story about St. Francis beginning the Third Order
Living in a secular world

“[Lord Orlando] wanted to know not how to joint the Order, but how to live the Christian life in the world. And….Francis said he would help him….Thus was born at Montefeltro the Third Order, for those who had lives to live and duties to do in the world….without conforming to the accepted pattern of things.”

SCRIPTURE: Romans 12:2, 13:1-6

DO: Discuss Choice 10: Teach nonviolence.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Friday, December 18, 2009:

READ: Rejoice! For Dec. 10 (thanks for encouragement), and/or Chapter 15
Sorry, joy, darkness, light
Joy in a tough place

SCRIPTURE: Psalm 121

DO: Discuss Choice 5: Speak truth using passion and compassion.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Saturday, December 19, 2009:

SING: O Little Town of Bethlehem; In the Bleak Midwinter; Servant Song

READ: Chapter 16
Consoling, understanding, loving
Teach us also to receive

SCRIPTURE: John 13

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Sunday, December 20, 2009: A hurting world

Light the fourth Advent candle.

SING: Be Still My Soul; From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

SCRIPTURE: Habakkuk 2:1, 3:16-19

READ: Paton Chapter 17, which deals with a hurting world, race riots, wars; calm in the midst of violence; and working for peace.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Monday, December 21, 2009

SING: Infant Holy Infant Lowly; Good King Wenceslas

POEM TO READ: Christmas (II) by George Herbert

Christmas (II) by George Herbert (1593-1633)
All after pleasures as I rode one day,
My horse and I both tired, body and mind,
With full cry of affections quite astray,
I took up in the next inn I could find.
There, when I come, whom found I but my dear--
My dearest Lord; expecting till the grief
Of pleasures brought me to Him, ready there
To be all passengers' most sweet relief?
O Thou, whose glorious yet contracted light
Wrapt in night's mantle, stole into a manger;
Since my dark soul and brutish is Thy right,
To man, of all beasts be not Thou a stranger;
Furnish and deck my soul, that Thou mayst have
A better lodging than a rack or grave.
The shepherds sing; and shall I silent be?
My God, no hymn for Thee?
My soul's a shepherd too; a flock it feeds
Of thoughts and words and deeds.
The pasture is Thy word, the streams Thy grace,
Enriching every place.
Shepherd and flock shall sing, and all my powers
Outsing the daylight hours.
Then we will chide the sun for letting night
Take up his place and right:
We sing one common Lord; wherefore He should
Himself the candle hold.
I will go searching till I find a sun
Shall stay till we have done;
A willing shiner, that shall shine as gladly
As frost-nipt suns look sadly.
Then we will sing and shine all our own day,
And one another pay.
His beams shall cheer my heart, and both so twine,
Till e'en his beams sing and my music shine.

READ: Paton Chapter 18, on giving, receiving; giving of yourself.

“It is in that moment that we receive; it is in that moment that God is; it is in that place that God is.”

SCRIPTURE: Matt. 1:18-25

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Tuesday, December 22, 2009:

SING: God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Father Make Us One

READ: Paton Chapter 19, on pardoning; loving your enemy. (This chapter needs to be previewed and read aloud by an adult, as it contains some content unsuitable for young children.)

“Now it seems to me that God may well forgive us while we are still a great way off, and perhaps not even on the way home at all. But for us ourselves it is essential that we ask forgiveness; otherwise we shall not recognize or experience it.”

DO: Discuss Choice 4: Remember the past, turn to the future.

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

SING: It’s Your Blood; The First Noel

READ: Paton Chapter 20, on dying and life.

“There are some diffident Christians who cannot believe that they are now in eternal life, not only because they continue to think of eternal life as a reward for this one, but because they think it is fr too grand a way to describe the prosaic way in which they live….Yet the gospel is a gospel for us, it is good news for us.”

This chapter includes a description of the death of St. Francis from St. Francis of Assisi by Elizabeth Goudge, and also the story of Christoph Probst, who wrote farewell letters to his mother and sister before his death during WWII. (Adapt as needed.)

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

SING: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear; What Child Is This; Silent Night

READ: Paton Chapter 21, “Conclusion,” on slavery vs. freedom, freedom in obedience. Paton also includes these lines from “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson:

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the midst of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
'All things betray thee, who betrayest Me'.
I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followed,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.

Paton ends with his own poem, “The Prison House.”

SCRIPTURE: 1 Corinthians 7:17-23

PRAY: the prayers at the end of each chapter. Also follow the daily prayer requests printed in the back of Rejoice!

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