Advent Candle Advent, which means â€˜comingâ€™ in Latin, lasts for the four weeks leading up to Christmas and traditionally has been used to remember the coming of Christ in three ways. First, we remember when Jesus came into the world as a baby to live as a man and die for us. Second, we reflect on how Jesus wants to come into our lives now. And third, we look to the future when Jesus will come back to the world as King. To help our community enter into this time, each Sunday of Advent we will have different people from the Trinity congregation light a candle and share a short reading.
Letâ€™s Together learn the art of
to practice turn the next page
Advent Readings for each week Why Spiritual Disciplines? In our age of busyness and rushing from one thing to the next, we are in desperate need of slowing down and centering our lives on Jesus. Spiritual disciplines are simple practices that make room in our lives for Godâ€™s presence. They take intentional effort but should not be hard. They are realistic practices for ordinary people to achieve for transformation: to become more like Christ and be filled with His peace. These are in fact practices that Jesus himself engaged in! Through grace and the Holy Spirit, God will empower us to live these out, but they still require human action. The goal is always intimacy with Jesus, the gift is always freedom and joy.
“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a great number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people...God intends the disciplines of the spiritual life to be for ordinary human beings: people who have jobs, who care for children, who wash dishes and mow lawns. In fact, the disciplines are best exercised in the midst of our relationships with our husband or wife, our brothers and sisters, our friends and neighbors.”
In this guide, each week we will focus on one discipline with some simple background information and practical ideas for how to live it out as an individual or family. We pray that these practices will give us all the tools to declutter our lives this Advent season and ultimately to restore greater intimacy with God and those around us.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places— firm muscles, strong bones. You’ll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again. Isaiah 58:11-12 (The Message)
WHAT IS SIMPLICITY?
Simplicity is a choice to have and to do less in order to be more purposeful and grateful about the items we choose to own and what we choose to do with our time. As a Christian discipline, the goal is to cultivate purity of heart, which is to will and want one thing: Jesus Christ. Simplicity puts us in a posture of trust and dependence upon God to be free to give and receive out of a grateful heart reliant on the provision of God. WHY DO WE NEED SIMPLICITY? We live in a culture of consumerism that pushes us to feel the need to buy or join the next new thing or fad. This is especially true around the Christmas season. But the irony is that consuming more and doing more does not satisfy our desire for control, balance, or peace. It can often create more feelings of inadequacy, comparison, and discontent. We also spending a lot of time managing the state of our things or busy
Psalm 27:2 (NIV)
schedules and feeling out of control rather than being peaceful and content. When our hands are clenched tightly around our time and belongings, we are closed off and opposed to change. But when we approach life with open hands, all that we have is a gift from God; we become stewards of those gifts. Our open hands mean that at any point, God can give and take away. That should not create fear, but rather the joy of trusting the ultimate Provider who desires to care for our every need and lead us into paths of joy. When we intentionally release ourselves from the material and time consuming pressures around us by reducing our belongings and creating margin in our week, we can become more aware of the great richness of Godâ€™s presence, that we have all we need in Christ. This can lead us to freedom from anxiety and fear and into peace and contentment.
HOW DO WE PRACTICE SIMPLICITY? Read Luke 10:38-42. Our culture can definitely resonate with
Martha. Imagine yourself first as Martha. What do you see, feel? How do Jesus’ words impact you? Next, imagine yourself as Mary. What do you see, feel? Are there any differences between the two experiences? What might Jesus desire for you right now? The lies that drive us to live like Martha could be “You don’t have enough” or “You are not enough.” How does Jesus speak to those root fears in this story?
Simplify your belongings. You can do as little or as much as you
have time and energy to do. Try choosing one category such as clothing or one room in your house. Give something away, perhaps something you love as an act of dependence on God.
Simplify your time. Practice slowing down. Give yourself permission to opt out of something this season. List out your weekly activities and holiday traditions and prayerfully ask why you do each one. Do you have enough alone time? Enough quality time with people you love? Decide to do only what fits you / your family this season. Consider opting out of something to opt in to time alone to rest or to be with others meaningfully.
Simplify your budget. Decide to reduce spending for a period
of time. This can seem hard during the holidays but once you get started, you’ll be surprised at the cost saving options you’ll find! If you are able to set aside extra funds, pray about how God might lead you to be generous with what you have.
Read Matthew 6:25-34 and meditate on the love and provision of God. What does he show you about himself? About you?
Family ACTIVITY Donate: This is a great time to go
through bedrooms and help kids fill boxes with old and underused toys or clothes to donate. If donating all at once seems too much for some kids, try picking one toy a day to give away for a week or a few toys once a week each week of advent. At the end of the week(s), discuss how it felt to give these items away. Make room in your Christmas budget to allow each child to choose a donation gift. To give a certain amount to a charitable cause of their choice or perhaps donating through the International Justice Mission or World Vision gift catalogues.
Reflect: Read through Matthew 6:25-
34 as a family and reflect on how we compare to the birds and flowers and what it shows us about God.
Receive less: Create simplified
Christmas lists. Rather than children expecting an unlimited or undetermined amount of presents, perhaps choose a simpler way to receive gifts such as the “four gifts rule”: something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.
Opt Out: As a family, pick some event to opt-out of, and instead “opt-in” to special family time - maybe a day excursion or a family movie night.
Mark 6:31b (NIV)
WHAT IS SILENCE?
It is the intentional quieting of our surroundings. It involves reducing the noise around us, from what we are listening to with our ears and perhaps also what we consume with our eyes. The goal is to recover the lost art of listening and paying attention.
WHY DO WE NEED SILENCE? When we intentionally quiet our lives, we find freedom from the noise that fights for our attention every day. We then find the ability to hear God’s voice and our own thoughts and other people more clearly. We will develop a quiet inner confidence in God’s presence with us and gain a fresh perspective on what’s truly important. We learn to really listen to what those around us are saying and grow to become more patient, loving, and kind.
HOW DO WE PRACTICE SILENCE? Practice awareness. Spend some time in a quiet place without distraction. Ask yourself, what am I feeling? How is my heart? Ask God, what are you feeling? What is your heart for me today?
Get quiet. Find an hour or some significant chunk of time and go someplace alone where there is no noise at all except the sound of God’s creation. Listen to the sounds of nature and life all around you. Be still. Ask God to make you aware of His presence and fill you with peace.
Read James 3:2-10. Reflect on how you have been using your speech lately. What does God lovingly convict you of? Meditate quietly on Psalm 46:10. What does God show you about himself?
Consider taking a social media fast for a day each week, or longer, to focus on purely perceiving the people and experiences around you. Create boundaries around your smartphone use each day, such as maybe spending the first and last hour of each day phone free.
Practice listening in conversations with friends and family. Ask open ended questions and wait to speak. Watch for nonverbal cues (facial expressions, posture, etc.)
Family ACTIVITY Write or print out conversation starter questions and have each family member take a turn answering a question while everyone practices quiet and active listening. Active listening involves not waiting to add your own idea but rather fully focusing on what the other person is saying. Take a nature walk together and play the “silent game” - see who can stay quiet the longest. Try to see how many different nature sounds you can count during that time. During a family time, practice silently listening for God’s voice for a short period of time. Then share what each person heard or thought about.
Sabbath Week three
WHAT IS SABBATH?
In the Biblical creation narrative, we are told that after God created the world, he rested. God has woven the need for rhythmic rest into the very fabric of our world and the hearts of humanity. In her book Rhythms of Renewal, Rebekah Lyons says, “From the beginning, God designed his creation to be more abundant, fulfilled, and joyful when we work from a place of rest and renewal.” God also gave the ancient Israelites the command to “honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8) as the fourth of the ten commandments. Our word for sabbath comes from the Hebrew verb shavat which means to “rest or cease from work.” We also see Jesus in the New Testament gospels living out rhythms of rest throughout his years of ministry. It is safe to say, God thinks rest is a really good idea!
Hebrews 4:9-10 (NIV)
WHY DO WE NEED SABBATH? Rebekah Lyons also writes, “We cannot run if we cannot rest.” Human beings were made to create and contribute to the well-being of the world around us. But we cannot do that tirelessly and expect to continue in health. We need to rest. We need to pull back, unplug, and reset in regular intervals for optimal inner health. The goal of sabbath is rhythmic rest to refuel; being filled to pour out again on those around us.
HOW DO WE PRACTICE SABBATH? Create Space: Make room for sabbath: Make a list of all
you need to do or events to attend this Christmas season. Prayerfully identify what is most important and what is secondary. See what you might need to say no to in order to create space for practicing sabbath. Remember that every no is really a yes to something else more important.
Weekly rhythm: Most typically, sabbath is choosing
one day of the week to press pause from work and other obligations to spend undistracted quality time with our families or close relationships. The goal is to unplug and engage in life-giving activities. Pick a day that works for you. Do your laundry and shopping ahead of time. Make a list of the things you enjoy that you “get to” do rather than “have to” do. This is also a great day to fast from phone usage to better tune into the people and places around you. Close the day with a celebratory meal. Light a candle and read a Psalm of gratefulness (Psalms 92, 95, or 100) then offer a prayer of gratitude for who God is and what he has done in your life.
Daily rhythm: Try to find 30 minutes to one hour each
day where you can rest from work and unplug, doing what gives you life. This could be time alone creating or reading a book or time outside on a walk with family or friends.
Yearly rhythm: Plan a time once this year when you can
take more than one day to engage in longer sabbath over a weekend or a week at home or away.
Family ACTIVITY Sabbath is really fun to practice as a family. You can make a list of life-giving activities you can do as a family. A hike in the woods? A trip to the zoo? Keep in mind that the point is to be together and not be distracted (everyone puts their phones away!). Pick a dinner meal everyone loves (even if it’s pizza!) and dress up the table (use the fancy napkins!). Practice the candle lighting, Psalm reading, and prayer of gratitude mentioned earlier.
Matt. 6:1 & Psalm 19:14 (ESV)
WHAT IS SECRECY?
The intentional withholding of information from others in order to break the addiction to approval and deepen the heart’s dependency on the unconditional approval of God alone and deepen our well of intimacy with Him. When we find ourselves always needing the approval of others as the basis for our view of ourselves, secrecy is a way to break free and declare our personal worthiness in Christ. “You are worthy to receive something beautiful, and you don’t have to share it,” (Rebekah Lyons in Rhythms of Renewal). WHY DO WE NEED SECRECY? We live in a “share-all” world where every detail of our livesfrom our recent job promotion to our salad for lunch- can be shared with friends and strangers alike on social media. We are used to seeing other people (both public
figures and people we know) share intimate and mundane details of their lives which can lead to a false sense of proximity and even a struggle to pursue real friendships with the people closest to us. Not all that long ago, this level of sharing was not possible. But even in Jesus’ day, people found ways to let their accomplishments be known to the most people possible. The Pharisees were experts at this. Jesus speaks directly to them in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:5-18. He calls them out for praying and fasting in a very public and “pious” fashion before other people. Jesus challenges them several times to practice these things in the privacy of their homes promising, “Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” It is always about our hearts and who we are turning to for approval. Jesus encourages us to start in the secret place, just us and our Father in heaven.
HOW DO WE PRACTICE SILENCE? Find or create a “secret place” in your home where you
can meet with God alone to share your heart with Him and listen for His words of challenge and affirmation.
Read Luke 2:1-20. Reflect on verse 19, “But Mary treasured
up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” If Mary had lived today, surely she would be tempted to share the events she had just encountered with others via social media. What do you think it means to treasure and ponder? Take a social media break for a week to foster an unfiltered experience of the people and places around you free from any intention or pressure to share a highlight with others. Simply enter into each moment that week and log away personal memories in your heart.
Keep a list of observations and gratitudes in a journal
or in a note on your phone with the intention not to share with anyone. At the end of each day, read the list in prayer, treasuring what you’ve written directly with the Lord.
Practice self-control with your words about yourself.
Reflect on how often you speak about yourself and make an effort to be slow to speak of yourself and quick to listen / speak well of others. Send encouraging notes with affirmations to others as you think of them and notice something they did well or something you appreciate about them. In competitive situations, “pray that others around you will be more outstanding, more praised, and more used of God than yourself.” (Dallas Willard in The Spirit of the Disciplines)
Do something to serve others this week and do not tell anyone about it!
Family ACTIVITY Practice writing notes of affirmation for each other and for friends. Take a trip to the post office to mail them. Read the Luke 2:1-20 passage and discuss treasuring something in your heart. Encourage your children to make a list of things they noticed that were special to them this week in a journal, at the end of the week, share with each other. Have each family member pick someone or something to pray for over the course of a week, keeping it to yourselvesf. At the end of the week, share what you prayed for and what God showed you through that time.
Solitude WHAT IS SOLITUDE?
It is spending intentional time alone, away from other people. It often goes hand in hand with silence, seeking out a quiet place away from rushing and busyness. Solitude is the absence of other people and noise to focus on the presence and voice of God.
WHY DO WE NEED SOLITUDE? Being physically alone might be hard in a season in which you have young children or if you live in a home with other people, but being alone and quiet for even short periods of time is important to our spiritual and mental health. Jesus modeled this practice in the many times he sought time to be alone and pray (Luke 5:16, Luke 6:12, Matthew 14:23, Mark 1:35). Being in solitude enables us to be more aware of God and honest about the state of our souls. It gives us space to breathe, to disconnect, and to renew our minds to be ready to re-engage those around us. The goal is purposeful withdrawing to restore our hearts so we can better engage others with love.
Mark 1:35 (NIV)
HOW DO WE PRACTICE SOLITUDE? Plan time to be alone: Similarly to the practice of silence, pick a time each day and a longer time each week when you can withdraw to a quiet corner of your house or an outdoor area to be alone. Use this time wisely to quiet down your mind. Keep a list on a piece of paper for any worries or to-do’s that come to mind so that you can think about them later.
During your time of solitude, practice awareness of the presence of Jesus. Start with a centering prayer or prayer of examen.
Example Prayer of Examen: Relish the moments that went well and all of the gifts I have today, giving thanks to God. Request the Holy Spirit to lead me through an honest review of my day. Review the day, asking the Lord to point out with loving honesty where I have made mistakes. Repent of any mistakes or failures and receive the Lord’s love and forgiveness. Resolve, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, to live tomorrow well.
Family ACTIVITY Occasionally replace a chore for a child with a time of solitude. Maybe it’s going on a quiet walk, sitting in the backyard, laying quietly on the bed, or even silently drawing as they pray (when solitude is a new discipline, little hands may need something to occupy them). Prompt your kids to do what Francis Chan dubs “prinking”: prayerful thinking. Help your kids get into a habit of having a quiet time with God. Ask kids how many minutes they think they can manage and set a timer. Widen their vision for what quiet time can look like - print out scripture coloring pages, let them dance to worship music, teach them to use a prayer of examen. Design a small prayer labyrinth with chalk on your driveway (https://deeperkidmin.com/how-to-make-a-prayer-labyrinth/ has some helpful ideas), encourage them to release their cares and fears to Jesus as they walk to the middle. Then stand in the middle for a minute to be aware of being with Jesus and how much he loves us. Then to walk out thinking about receiving strength, joy, and love from God.
Ministry Center River Rd. Cos Cob
Trinity Kids Family Christmas Party Come as a family & join us for a
Christmas party with cookie decorating,
ornament making, & a special worship time. There will be creative & engaging Advent activities designed to bring you together as a family during the holiday season.
Serving in advent
Advent is a season where we remember that when we were in need, God gave us the gift of Jesus to ultimately die for us and invite us into a resurrected life. As we follow Christ and participate in the resurrection of all things, we invite you to help others in need this Christmas season. Flip over for all the opportunities.
Opportunities this month (sign up online) http://trinitychurch.life/trinityserves
New Covenant Center
New Covenant Center
2:15 - 4:15PM
4:15 - 5:30PM
Person to Person
11AM - 1:00PM
2:30 - 4:30PM
Filling in The Blanks
New Covenant Center
deliver food & read to preschoolers
5:15 - 6:30PM
9:45 - 11:15AM
2:15 - 4:15PM
New Covenant Center
Person to Person
Backpacks to Stepping Stones Preschool
4:15 - 5:30PM
11AM - 1:00PM
CHRISTMAS EVE IN YOUR COMMUNITY Looking for a place to celebrate Christmas Eve with your friends, or family or on your own? We have an event designed for Fairfield and Westchester Counties.
JOIN IS FOR A SPECIAL
Christmas Eve Celebration December 24 @ 4pm GREENWICH HIGH SCHOOL PERFORMING ARTS CENTER
ALL ARE WELCOME!
10 Hillside Road, Greenwich, CT