More Than a Memory

How important is food and liquid to our bodies? Pretty important, right? We can’t live without both. Food provides our body with energy, and liquid is important to pretty much every function our body carries out. Without a constant supply of these important nutrients, our bodies are unable to function well, and if we go without access for too long, they cease to function all together. Nutrients are crucial for the nourishment of our physical bodies.

We learned the importance of nourishing our bodies long before we understood the biology and chemistry behind nourishment. Most of us probably still don’t know much about the science, but that doesn’t matter, right? We know that we need to eat and drink to live, and we don’t forget to teach this important part of life to our children and grandchildren. Getting kids to eat food—especially healthy, nourishing food—is a daily struggle for many parents and grandparents, but we constantly engage with the struggle because we know it’s best for our children.

Now, we all know about physical nourishment, but what about spiritual nourishment? Humans aren’t just physical beings; we are also spiritual. The mystery of humans is that we are a hybrid species of the physical and spiritual. We are made of matter, but God breathed into us the breath of life that opens us up to the spiritual world beyond what we see and feel in the physical world. This part of life is puzzling to say the least. The spiritual part of us longs to be more than just another creature on earth. We long to create, to discover, to know and be known. Our spiritual lives converge with our physical bodies to make up our whole person.

Why all this talk about our spiritual life? Because we often forget about it. We forget that we need to consider our spiritual health as well as our physical health. Many people can appear physically fit while remaining spiritually ill. How do we care for the spiritual part of our bodies? There are several aspects of this, most of which we will discuss in subsequent articles. However, there is one part of spiritual health that I do wish to discuss briefly. Nourishment.

Just as nourishment is the foundation of physical health, nourishment is the foundation of spiritual health. What, you might ask, can we consume that will nourish our spiritual lives? We need not look further than John 6. In this chapter, Jesus encounters a crowd who continues to follow him because, according to Jesus, he has fed them. In the course of discussion, Jesus encourages the crowd to work for food that endures to eternal life. Through a series of questions, Jesus makes clear that he is telling this crowd that they must come to believe that he is the Son of Man sent by God if they wish to join in the work of God’s eternal kingdom. Within this discourse, Jesus makes one very important point. Namely, that he is the bread of life, and that,

Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever. -John 6:54-58

What do we learn here about spiritual nourishment? That when we receive communion, we are doing more than just remembering Christ’s death, instead we are also consuming the bread of life that is the very nourishment for our souls. Spiritual nourishment begins with communion. Many Christian traditions have lost this crucial theological insight. When we come around the Lord’s table, we are doing more than remembering. We are providing our spiritual beings with nourishment. This mystery of communion is puzzling, there is no doubt about that. Yet, it is comforting too. Jesus is at work in us in ways we cannot even begin to understand. Sustaining us and always reminding us that he alone is the source of life.

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Making Advent more than a Celebration

Advent is the season when we prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus. Just like expecting parents prepare for and anticipate the coming of a child, Christians get to prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus during Advent. And just like expecting parents—who buy baby clothes, stock pile diapers, decorate the nursery, update their health insurance policy, and believe it or not head off on a babymoon—there are things that we can physically do to prepare for Jesus’ birth and return too. Here is a list of simple ideas that can be adopted during Advent (December 2-24) to help our body, mind, and soul prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus.

1. Take the Advent wreath home this year.

One great way to prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus is to have a home Advent wreath. Home Advent wreaths are a great way for families, couples, or individuals to get into the preparation and anticipation mood during Advent. After dinner is a great time to light the Advent wreath and open an Advent devotional. This is a great way for the whole family to get involved in the preparation.

2. Pick up an Advent devotional that stirs your preparation and anticipation.

Devotional material compiled specifically for the Advent season is another great way for families, couples, or individuals to prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus. Even without an Advent wreath, devotionals are a great way to add something to life that causes pause and reflection. There are tones of great Advent devotionals out there. This year I’m working through Christmastide: Prayers for Advent Through Epiphany from The Divine Hours by Phyllis Tickle. Other devotionals for the Advent season include Come, Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul David Tripp, Advent for Everyone: A Journey with the Apostles by N. T. Wright, and God Is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The local Christian bookstore will surly have many titles in addition to these from which to chose. Pick one up today!

3. Follow a specific Bible reading plan.

Some people prefer the good old Bible to devotional material. If that’s you, Advent is a great season to follow a specific Bible reading plan. This need not be complicated. This year the Revised Common Lectionary follows the Gospel of Luke as it recounts the life and work of Jesus. Why not read through the Gospel of Luke this Advent season? Other options are to read through a different book of your choosing, to follow the readings of the daily office (click here table of readings), or to follow a reading plan compiled by a variety of Bible apps on your phone/tablet.

4. Add discipline to your life.

We add things to our lives during Advent to help us disrupt our routine. Spiritual disciplines bring pause and (hopefully with enough work) reflection. They are a way to help us prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus this Advent season. You could practice some sort of fasting throughout the Advent season, take up journaling, prayer, or Christian mediation (intentional reflection upon scripture).

There are many ways that we can prepare for and anticipate the birth and return of Jesus this Advent season. The point is that we need to do something! It’s never to late to begin your preparation and anticipation of the birth and return of Jesus.