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Epic Theology

Finding God through the lens of an artist

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Celebration

Themes of Advent: Joy

Yesterday was the start of the third week of Advent. For those unfamiliar with the tradition, Advent is a season of anticipation of the coming of Jesus Christ. Just as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, the birth of baby Jesus, on Christmas, so we also turn our hearts, minds, and spirits towards His Second Coming. We look back in remembrance and forward in hope. Each of the four weeks leading up to Christmas carries a different theme, and today we’re going to look at the third one: Joy.

Joy is probably my favourite week of Advent. I believe Hope starts us off beautifully, with that gentle glimmer of something better that is to come. Peace is like the softly falling snow that falls in December, but I often find that week to be one where I struggle to maintain peace amidst the chaos of Christmas preparation (perhaps why it’s so important). Joy, however, is where Christmas really kicks into high gear for me.

Yesterday, my family started the Joy week with gusto. Our kids sang in the church children’s performance, which is always adorable and brings smiles to everyone I know. I had a quick rehearsal in the afternoon, where I got to see the sets for our Christmas Eve performances in all their glory. Next, my family joined about 25 other people from our community to go caroling through the neighbourhood, spreading joy to those who stopped to listen (and for those who slammed the door in the faces of children…now we know who the community Grinches are).

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Finally, we wrapped the day with pizza, a cheesy kids’ Christmas movie, and camping out beneath the Christmas tree. By the end of the day, we were all filled to the brim with Joy, ready for an exciting week to come.

Your experience with the week of Joy may vary, but I’ve found that this is the week when Christmas parties are in full swing, gifts are arriving in the mail, and I end up consuming my weight in eggnog and cookies. The closer we get to “the big day,” the more we start to actually celebrate. 

Because, at it’s heart, Christmas is a celebration. For those unaware, December 25th is unlikely to be the actual birthday of Jesus, but it is the day that the Church decided to celebrate His birth. The reality of His first arrival and of His future arrival do not diminish throughout the rest of the year, but it is during the Christmas season that we purposefully celebrate these events. And the best way to celebrate such a momentous occasion is with joy!

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Later this week, I’m going to talk about traditions and celebrations, but for now, I’d like to hear about how you celebrate the coming of Jesus? What brings joy into your life as we count down the days until Christmas? Is it parties, food, and music? Or is it quite story-time, candles, and mistletoe?

This week, I urge you to seek these things out. If you haven’t already, make some time for joy-filled activities that remind you of how wonderful it is that Jesus came and is coming again.

It’s a birthday party! Let it be joyful!

Blessings

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Worship Language: Enthusiast

Happy Easter everyone!

Depending on how your Easter services went (if you attend church, that is), today seems like a very appropriate day to talk about our next Worship Language: the Enthusiast!

(For those just tuning in, here are the other languages we’ve covered so far: the Naturalist, the Sensate, the Traditionalist, the Ascetic, the Activist, and the Caregiver).

The Enthusiast worships God through mystery and celebration. They are looking for an experience with God that going beyond what we can explain or what makes sense. Like the name suggests, enthusiasts love God dramatically and emotionally. They might spend a lot of time with their eyes closed and hands raised while listening to worship music. They may be highly interested in the manifestations of God’s gifts, like tongues or healings or prophecy. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it with enthusiasm!

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The standard weekend service at many evangelical services starts with half an hour or so of worship music, followed by a sermon. It’s during the first half that an Enthusiast will feel closest to God. Surrounded by the bride of Christ, pouring out his or her heart to God in song, the Enthusiast seeks the face of their loving Father. While the structure of a larger church service may hinder the Enthusiast, the combination of light and sound and the collection of the body can usher this worshipper into the presence of God.

For the Enthusiast artist, allow your art into the mystery and celebration. Put on some worship music and spend time seeking God’s face before you pick up pen or brush. Create dance pieces that are uninhibited, full-body acts of praise to the King. Pick up a flag and wave it with all you’ve got. Allow God’s presence to seep into your art, and then allow your art to ooze God back into the lives of others. Perhaps you can create as part of a worship service, or have your art as part of a gallery focused on faith and worship.

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However, the Enthusiast, like the other languages, has dangers to watch out for. In seeking an experience of God, it can become easy to chase the experience and the emotion rather than the God who should be at the heart of such events. Also, while our God is mysterious in that we can never fully know Him, we must keep our eyes open while delving into the mystical. Christian mysticism has been a thing since the earliest days of the faith, but there are those who claim to be Christian mystics who really just sell a Christian-focused New Ageism.

Bottom line for Enthusiasts: give yourself fully to the wonder and mystery of our God while being careful when straying too far from what the rest of the body is doing.

If you are an Enthusiast, how do you best connect with God?

Blessings

Of Christmas Celebrations

Hello, dear readers,

As we dive headlong into the second half of November, some of you may have Christmas party plans coming up. For us, my work Christmas party is this weekend and kicks off a series of five work and family parties (not including celebrations during Christmas Eve/Christmas/Boxing Day). Nearly every week between now and Christmas we will have the opportunity to join with friends, family, and coworkers to share food, drink, and a bit of fun.

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But, I’ve found it can be difficult, with all the schedule juggling, babysitter seeking, and budget balancing, to keep in mind why we celebrate this time of year. Even though Christmas is over a month away, we must remember that He is the reason for the season. Even if the season seems to get longer every year.

This is more a reminder for me, but I feel others may need to think about how we approach the Christmas season. I have a habit of filling December so full that I don’t have time to slow down and think about the coming of Jesus Christ, both 2000 years ago in Bethlehem and His future return some day. The church has celebrated Advent for hundreds of years to give us time to focus on Jesus, but we seem to have lost the habit. We spend more time thinking about parties, gifts, ice skating, caroling, shopping, lights, and mistletoe than about the One who came. None of these are bad, by any means, but when the celebrations become more important than the reason for celebration, we need to check ourselves.

So, this year, as you prepare for any parties, celebrations, or get-togethers, take a little time to think about that little baby Jesus. As you toast the end of another year, lift a glass to the Son of God.  Remember that those Christmas lights shine in the evening to represent the light of Christ coming into the world.

Go, celebrate heartily. Make merry and sing joyously. Just remember why we do so.

Blessings

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