Advent Challenges 6 – 11

Goodness me – the joys of the season are really passing me by! I can’t get “in the mood” for Advent OR Christmas – presents remain unbought; those that are bought are unwrapped; cards are unwritten (people are getting the Bishop’s rejects!); the Christmas Round Robin has been abandoned. Even listening to the magnificent Hely Hutchinson Carol symphony has failed to get me jolly and merry…

We have been choir rehearsing for the Service of Nine lessons and rather too many (in my opinion) carols. Our newish organist comes from a Cathedral background and I feel the Carol Service is a bit too “performance-y” and not community carol singing enough. But it’s his first year, and I think the Rector just said “Get on with it” So he did. I hope the slightly scratch Choir can come up to his expectations! But even singing carols hasn’t helped!!!

But I have been continuing with the Bible Society’s Advent Challenge:

DAY SIX: On Your Marks, Get set, Bake! Food plays a big part in our Christmas celebrations and it’s a great way to draw people together. But not everyone’s budget can stretch to festive food treats and the pressure to make meals special can be a real source of stress for those struggling financially. The Bible makes no bones about it: we’re to share our food with the poor.

Together with 65.4% of the challenge-takers, I doinated (or plan to donate) food to a food bank. It was very tricky finding out how to donate – the two websites I found were remarkably User unfriendly – but I will give some food to Rob, our Rector, who has links with the local Banque Alimentaire.

DAY 7: Let Justice Roll On: The Bible is one long clarion call for justice for the poorest, the overlooked, the people on the edges who most others despise. These were the very people that Jesus chose to spend his time with. When Jesus came down to earth, God’s word was made flesh: Jesus demonstrated how we should live just lives. Let’s follow his lead today!

One of the challenges was to buy something Fair Trade – 54.1% of the people took this action. I’d gone shopping the day before – FT coffee!! – but as I had 15 minutes before my lesson in Roanne I nipped into the Artisans of the World shop. I bought two creches – one for each mother – and a beautiful glass dove decoration for friends’ Christmas present.

DAY 8: Take a Deep Breath: Patience is one of those wonderful fruits of the Spirit that we’d all like more of – especially when we’re driving or in a long queue. The good news is that God knows that we are naturally impatient, and sometimes impulsive, and that we need his Spirit’s help to be patient. Let’s ask for his help to slow down and be gracious today: it will bless other people, especially if we’re acting out of character!

The Challenges today were:

  1. When driving, let someone out in front of you
  2. Hold the door open for someone
  3. Let someone go ahead of you in a queue

To be honest, I try very hard to be patient and do all of these things – especially if I’ve got a trolleyload of shopping and the person behind has only a few things. They weren’t really a challenge – but still….One day it might be!!

DAY 9: Give of Yourself: In our busy lives, it’s tempting to take the easy way out: to limit interaction with our neighbours to a quick ‘hello’, and to give gifts rather than spending time with people. But the Bible challenges us to go deeper, to give of ourselves, without expecting a reward. So, today, let’s be generous with our time and our attention. Let’s linger with people and put some love into all that we do. In fact, the Bible says we will get a reward: happiness!

The Challenge I took, along with 70.6% of people, was to handmake at least one Christmas present. At dancing we are having a Secret Santa….I have drawn a zentangle dreamcatcher and put it in a hand decorated frame.

IMG_2496

It’s not this one – I did this for someone else – but it’s similar. Slightly less complicated, but similar. With a 2€ limit on the cost I thought handmade was a good way to go!

DAY 10: Enough is Enough: This time of year brings a relentless onslaught of shopping catalogues, adverts and TV programmes that prod us to have more, look better, try harder. Keeping up with the Joneses (whoever they are) can be exhausting and ultimately fruitless. So let’s take a moment, step back and look beyond the ‘packaging’ around Christmas – and choose to be satisfied. We will be happier as a result and so will those around us.

I took the slightly less popular choice this time – only 24.9% of people chose it – Give all the loose change in your purse to someone in need. Again, I haven’t done it yet…as I’ve not seen anyone who was “in need”. But we had a collection in church today to support the 26 Afghan minors who have been housed near Clermont Ferrand…The plan is to give each of the lads a voucher so they can go shopping and choose some clothes. Not be given cast-offs, but buy stuff that THEY want, and that they have chosen. So I gave to that collection.

On Thursdays when I drive to one of my lessons, there is a guy who goes along the line of traffic waiting to turn left, with a paper cup, asking for spare change. I always avert my eyes, or give an apologetic shrug but I never give money. This Thursday, with these challenges in mind, I rolled down my window and gave him some money. I don’t know if he’s homeless, or poor – or even if he’s scamming us – but I feel that if you spend your day wandering up and down a line of traffic, you can’t be in a particularly good place. So I let my instincts take over, and I gave him a bit more than I might have usually done…

DAY 11: Spread a little happiness: The Bible urges us repeatedly to ‘rejoice’ or ‘be joyful’. Not just when everything is going our way but ‘at all times’. We can be sure if God repeats something it’s because he wants to make very sure we get the message. Let’s make a point of being joyful today and setting the mood music around us, even if we’re facing troubles ourselves. Joy is contagious, even in the grumpiest of offices!

Smile more! This was the challenge! In repose my face is a bit mardy-looking, even though I’m not. So I tried to be a bit more smiley today… I also greeted people cheerily, as another challenge suggested.

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