Advent 4A

This week is a lesson in simplicity.

Each three-year lectionary cycle I try to change up what I’ve been doing. For the last three years I have been selecting hymns to write roughly 350 words on for this three-year cycle. During the summer I read Brian Wren’s Praying Twice to get an idea for how to assess a hymn. Yet during week 3 I discovered a problem. I was being too critical of the writing and I was only able to write about 200 words.

I could just give up, but I know from past experience it’s best to reassess my process. My first journal process was a disaster as I tried to work with a variety of authors that changed each week. Once I realized I was missing a consistent ritual, I created one that worked for the next three years by just writing with the Scripture passages of the lectionary.

So if you began a new ritual with Advent, now is the time to start asking yourself:

  1. Is this working? Pay attention to if the process is easy or you feel like your fighting it. If you’re resisting the process, how can you change it? What part of the process is working, how do you keep that?
  2. Have I bitten off more than I can chew? My first year creating art with the lectionary, I decided I should make something for each passage. Yep, I wanted to make three quilt blocks each week that included a variety of surface design, piecing and handwork. It didn’t take long for me to realize I really needed to scale back to one block and committed to using Tula Pink‘s patterns because they allowed quite a bit of artistic freedom.
  3. Does this really work with my schedule? I prefer to write first thing in the morning. It’s when I feel like I do my best writing. Any spiritual discipline I design begins with morning reading of the Scripture and then writing. Part of my hymn problem has been wanting to write at night before bed. By moving it to the morning right after reading the Scripture, I should be able to continue with the hymns.

Most importantly, remember that you are designing the discipline so you can adjust it. I typically like to use the end of Advent and the beginning of Lent to reassess so that by the time Easter rolls around I should feel comfortable enough to continue through the full three-year cycle.

Prompts from the Past

Isaiah 7:10-16

Let’s play with the idea of an illuminated manuscript and that anybody could be like Jesus as he walked on the earth. As a model, look at Dirc van Delf’s Holy Face and Ten Names of God from the 15th century CE. Find a “mug shot” or school picture of yourself and put it inside your first initial, then decorate the initial.   While doing this, think about how you learned the difference between good and evil. You want to scale it similar to van Delf’s page.

Romans 1:1-7

This project uses the illuminated letter from Isaiah. Begin writing by adapting Paul’s address to the Romans by changing “Paul” to your name and using the illuminated letter as the first letter of your name. So, if your name was Paul, you would use the illuminated “P” and then write in smaller letters “aul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures.”

At this point Paul begins to praise Jesus but you’re going to add words of praise about yourself that you’ve heard from other people or write about how you feel God calls you.

Matthew 1:18-25

In the Bible dreams are one of the ways that God speaks to us. But in the modern world, we tend to think they are just our subconscious’ way of processing the day. For today, it’s a little bit of both. Think back to the last time you had a weird dream when you were trying to make a life decision. What are some of the images that stuck with you? What about words people said? Collage together the images and words from magazines or an online image database.

Take out a pencil and paper and sit with the image for awhile. Write any words that come to you. When you’re ready ask:

  1. What do these images symbolize to me?
  2. What is God trying to say to me?
  3. How does this help me make a decision?
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