Tag Archives: advent

Book Review: Those Who Wait by Tanya Marlow

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I picked up this book based on the review of another blogger. When I ordered the book I was impatiently and anxiously awaiting my dissertation results – waiting isn’t something I’m very good at. Although by the time I started the book I had received my results, I still found myself in a sort of limbo. I had spent the last three years of my life working towards this big goal of getting my Masters, and when it was all over I felt a little bit lost. I’m still figuring out what I want to do next – I kind of have an idea but I’m not really sure how to get there – so I am still waiting on God, His timing and his answers to my questions. All of which to say, this book came at exactly the right time for me.

I started reading in the middle of November, and was soon overtaken by the season of Advent, which was perfect as Advent is all about waiting. Although you can read this book at any time of year, it is set out for daily reading through the Advent season, and has an appendix at the end for group study.

The book retells the stories of four Bible characters from their own perspective. These are based around the four Advent candles (one version of this) – the first section is Sarah (wife of Abraham) representing the Patriarchs; the second is Isaiah, for the prophets; the third is John the Baptist and the fourth Mary. Each section is broken down into five chapters, and at the end of each the biblical reference is given to provide the context for the story. There are also questions for reflection. The final (sixth) chapter of each section gives more questions and also a couple of creative reflection activities. There are also prayers and Benedictions, and suggestions for music to listen to, to help you reflect further on the story. Some of these activities are included in the Group Study guide in the final appendix. The first appendix also gives theological and historical context in which Marlow explains some of the narrative choices she has made.

I really needed and loved this book. Marlow’s prose is beautiful, and really brought the characters to life in a new way for me. I loved Sarah’s story, mainly because I spent a good part of the summer reflecting on her story from Hagar’s perspective and it was helpful for me to be reminded of how much of a victim Sarah is as well (Abraham was not a great husband, really. It’s also good to be reminded of just how flawed our biblical heroes really were, and how greatly God used them in spite of their serious flaws. Gives me hope!) But I think my favourite section was Isaiah’s story, as I have rarely thought of Isaiah the person. There are so many memorable and powerful prophecies in the book of Isaiah that I have never really thought about how it would have felt for Isaiah as an ordinary man, to speak these amazing words from God but yet not see their fulfilment. I found the prayers and creative reflections to be useful tools for working through some of my own issues. I only flicked through the group study section, but will be recommending the book to my homegroup for next Advent.

I said at the start that I am not very good at waiting. This book highlights that waiting is not easy and it is often painful, but that it is worth it and that God is in it – He is working even when we can’t see it. I highly recommend it to anyone who is waiting on God to fulfil His promises, whether large or small. I certainly will reread it many times as I think it is a lesson I will need to keep learning.

One song was going through my head much of the time I was reading this book, as it ties in so closely with the theme. It has become one of my favourites of the last year. I hope it speaks to you too.

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Third Sunday of Advent

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John 1:1-18

This is one of my all-time favourite bits of the Bible. Especially at Christmastime when as we remember how Jesus came to live on earth, became fully human.

When I read this passage, I’m always struck by v14 – “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. I’m told that a better translation of ‘dwelt’ is ‘pitched His tent’ or ‘tabernacled’

I’ve got a little note written in the margin of my Bible here – “be a tabernacle people, not a temple people. God who tabernacles with us wherever we set up camp”. We can get so fixated on church being a building, God’s house, that we forget that WE are the church, and wherever God’s people are, He is right there. Before the Israelites settled in the Promised land and built a temple, God’s dwelling was the tabernacle, a “tent of meeting” that they packed up, picked up and carried with them wherever they went. When they finished their day’s wanderings, they would reassemble the tent and set up camp around in. God dwelt in the middle of wherever His people were.

Looking back on the last year, and starting to think about the one to come, this is such a comforting message. Whatever this year throws at me, Jesus is right there with me through it all. He, Be came, became flesh and lived as a human. He knows emotions, He lived highs and lows and is right now with me to comfort or rejoice, to laugh, cry or encourage as needed. That gives me hope.

Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Christ into the world, but we can get so caught up in the Christmas traditions that we miss so much of the beauty in the story.

I’ve had several conversations this week with friends about a character in the nativity that is so often overlooked: Joseph. He didn’t have to take on the burden of Mary’s pregnancy, but he choose to still marry her and adopt her child, God’s child, as his own son. He protected the baby Jesus from danger, and then brought the boy up, teaching him and loving him. Joseph’s adoption of Jesus teaches us a profound truth, which is explained in verses 12 and 13 of this passage: “to all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection gave us access to God, gave us the opportunity to become His sons.

I say sons because, much as I love to be inclusive of my own gender, children just does not get across the power of the image. Sons were the heirs, they had all the rights in Biblical times. Everyone who believes in Jesus gains all the rights of a son of God, all the inheritance He has in store for us (women included).

Jesus came. He was born, He lived, He died, He has been through all of human existence and can comfort us and encourage us, He is with us now, Emmanuel, and He welcomes us into God’s family.

Second Sunday of Advent…

and this week I want to share someone else’s poetry with you.

This is a brilliant Christmas spoken word video, created by Dai Woolridge for the Nativity Factor competition two years ago, when it came second. (FYI, he entered again the next year with a video about Joseph and won).

I get goosebumps every time I watch this.

Make sure you check out Dai’s other work at http://spoken-truth.com, where you can purchase some of his work. Also, follow him on twitter: @twitwitandgrit

Expecting – an advent poem

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And we wait

Excitement building as the nights draw in

the coca-cola advert the first clue

that the season is on its way

Soon enough

fairy lights will flicker on house fronts

and we will count down the days with chocolates

the weeks with candles

And the shopping begins

and dreams of what might be found

in stockings hung on mantlepieces

or at the foot of the bed

but do we really know

what we are waiting for

Think back

for one girl

there were nine months of waiting

a young expectant mother

knowing her life would change completely

unaware how completely her child would change the world

and as months pass

the expectation grows

“He will save His people”

Nine months from promise to fulfillment

or longer?

as the promise was made long before

clocks go back 700 years

A promis spoken

“unto us a son is given”

“prince of peace”

light in the darkness

hope is born in an expectant people

waiting

for the silence to be broken

for the promise to be fulfilled

the promise made long before

looking back through time

hints and clues along the way

back to the beginning

the birth of the world

the first people

a promise broken

and a new promise made

the offspring who would redeem

Son of God, Son of Man

and the years passed

until the time came for the child to be born

to live

to grow

to die

and live again

so now we look back

as we look forward

to the day of celebration

For He is here

yet He is coming

so in expectation we await

the promise fulfilled