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Issue 11-13

Advent Watching


Did any of you see the recent movie Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck? It’s about a secret operation to extract six U.S. diplomatic personnel who escaped from the U.S. Embassy at the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis. That historical event happened in 1980.

In May of that year, Mount St. Helens erupted, hurling steam and ash 60,000 feet into the sky. The November 1980 election put Ronald Reagan in the White House, replacing Jimmy Carter. That December, Beatle John Lennon was shot to death outside his New York City apartment. Oh yes, that’s right, most of us think. But old news is just that—old news—we don’t think about it much.

Not to the Christians living in Jerusalem in the year A.D. 66. Roughly 32 years earlier Jesus had prophesied:

“When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, you will know that its destruction is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.”

(Luke 21:20-24, the Olivet Discourse)


In the late summer of 66 A.D., 32 years after Jesus spoke those words, a Roman force of 40,000 soldiers came from Galilee to quell a riot in Jerusalem. Would you believe that huge army was not only resisted, but routed?


Reveling in their triumph, the jubilant Jewish defenders began promoting the cause of complete independence from Rome. In the spring of AD. 67 the Romans began their retaliation under the ruthless leadership of Titus, the son of the Emperor Vespasian. He led the 50,000 troops that had gathered on the Mediterranean Coast toward Jerusalem to lay siege to the city.

Christians, remembering the words of Jesus spoken three decades earlier, began leaving in large numbers, settling in Pella, on the west side of the Jordan River and north of Jerusalem.


In A.D. 70 Jerusalem fell into Roman hands. According to Josephus, 1 million were casualties of war or of starvation. Some 100,000 were led away to work the Egyptian mines; others were distributed to amphitheaters to be slaughtered in spectacles. As predicted by Jesus, “they were taken prisoners to all the nations.” The temple and the city were completely leveled.

The assigned text for Advent Sunday 1 also relates to prophecy, about the end of times:

“There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. ... Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

 
What things? Here’s a compilation from the same discourse as found in the first three Gospels:

• Famines    • Earthquakes    • Roaring of the seas   • Pestilence
• Israel highlighted among the nations of the world
• Persecutions and killings of Christians
• The Gospel being preached in all nations as well as many turning away from Christ
• False Christs    • Signs in the heavens


Perhaps, we moderns need to pay attention to the words of Jesus the Christ, whose warnings from centuries back are eerily apropos to our times.


The word “Advent” means “coming” and the season, which begins in December and marks the beginning of the new church calendar, is about both the original and the yet-to-take-place coming of Jesus into our world. It is my opinion that Christians need to spend more time considering the Second Coming of Christ. We need to pay attention to Christ’s words to “be always on the watch.” We need to look at the news media through the grid of the above list. What do we think of Hurricane Sandy or of global warming seen through the lens of Christ’s warnings?

History doesn’t just go on forever. Scripture teaches about a final showdown between the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan. And it’s a winner-takes-all clash.


The early Church took seriously what Jesus said in His discourse on the Mount of Olives. They believed that He knew what He was talking about. Acting on His words, they saved their lives. My contention is that we also should trust what Jesus has to say. Our generation needs to “be always on the watch.”

So let us welcome Christ this Christmas and remember His First Coming, but let us also seriously consider his words of warning about the events surrounding His Second Coming. Let us dedicate ourselves to thinking intentionally about what that reality will impose upon the way we live our lives this coming year, 2013.


David Mains

NOTICES

Nigeria Post-Trip Report From David

Your prayers for me and the crew were felt during the Nigeria film project for Medical Ambassadors International. We captured the footage we needed, worked together in harmony, love and laughter, and walked among some Africans who surely must be God’s “princes of the earth.” The Boko Haram extremist group has been increasing its attacks on Christians to almost daily slaughters. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters and particularly for Dayo Obaweya, Medical Ambassador International’s Regional Coordinator, who oversees some 174 West African countries. He is a “marked” man.

Oh, Lord, We pray for angelic hosts to surround this brother and his family. Protect them from the evil one. We plead over him the blood of Christ. Make his witness strong in these perilous times. Give him grace and peace.

David With Elders of a Nigerian Village

David With Elders of a Nigerian Village

Listening to the Messiah

A personal tradition I like to follow is to listen to a recording of Handel’s Messiah from start to finish with the scorebook in my hand so that I can follow the music in a more tactile and tangible way than one would experience at a concert (although a good listener could bring the score along and heighten the listening experience).

The Messiah, of course, is not just about Christ’s birth, but involves a compilation of Old Testament prophecies that tell about His coming and the reason for His life on Earth. We’ve included this exercise as a meditation tool in the last few 24-Hour Advent Retreats of Silence. (I was glad to see that the tradition was continued again this year—I know, since Sibyl Towner borrowed my five scorebooks.)

If you have never carved out this opportunity, I highly recommend it. The rooms of my hall, the very walls just seem filled with glory and I find myself singing many of the lyrics and melodies all through the Advent and Christmas seasons.

Writers' Memoir-Writing Course

Hungry Souls will be offering another 8-month memoir-writing course, conducted via conference call and e-mail, beginning March 2013. (This is a change from the previous announcement, due to Karen Mains’ extended 2013 travel and freelance assignments, including film projects overseas). We have built this curriculum for adult students over the last two years. You must have a sample memoir piece written for purposes of submission when you register. We will have two conference calls a month, and an editorial team, headed by Karen Mains, will evaluate your submissions. Unlike past years, this memoir-writing course will include a section on digital publishing, blog-writing, self-publishing, etc. The cost to the members of the Hungry Souls list will be $600, including a $150 fee with your registration (the course will be advertised on the Internet for a fee of $800; that’s $100 a month). If you are interested and want to plan to make a deposit, we must have $300 by the end of February as a token of your sincere interest in joining, doing the work and attending the conference calls. Funds can be written as a check to Karen Mains, Hungry Souls and sent to Box 30, Wheaton, IL 60187. We will also set up a Internet registration process and a PayPal payment plan. However, there is only room for 8 paying participants and 2 scholarship participants.

Registration will open in January.

Global Bag Project Year-End Gift Possibilities

After fulfilling an order for some 500 bags, the store closet shelves in the sewing room are empty of product! Since we are still operating on thin margins, we wonder if some of you would like to do some vicarious shopping for fabrics (via a year-end gift) so the Global Bag Project seamstresses will be able to keep sewing without a break in their work schedules (no work means no pay means straightened circumstances for our Kenyan friends).

Here are some gift ideas:
1.  Gifts that total $1000 to begin re-supplying the fabric storage closets. No fabric supply means no work.
2.  Sewing machines for $300. These are dual-power treadle machines.
3.  GBP is moving into the training phases for our Kenyan model. We have been training other would-be seamstresses and can use funds to pay for a sewing teacher for around $300. In addition, we are beginning business training with micro-loans for those women who want to move their locus of business from the sewing room to their own homes (many of them walk miles to the campus of African International University).

If you order ASAP, there is actually time to choose bag colors and sizes from our Web site, www.GlobalBagProject.org. We have enough supply to fulfill orders and mail them out next week. Think bottle bags, think medium-sized shopping bags, think book bags, PC computer and iPod sleeves, think patchwork aprons.

Knowing how ruinous plastic bags are to our ecology, why are you still carrying plastic bags? Remember that the purchase of a GBP bag feeds a family AND helps to preserve the planet.

You can send a check in the mail (information above) or you can donate over the GBP Web site by clicking the Donate button to use PayPal.

Karen's Blogs for Next Week

Link is http://blog.karenmains.com/blog/thoughts-by-karen-mains. Titles for next week include “Too Many Dishes,” “Early-Morning Meditation on the Cross,” “Farm-Girl Morning” and “The New Roof That Almost Wasn't.”


Reminder!

The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to www.HungrySouls.org.


David Mains

David Mains
considering Advent

“The early Church took seriously what Jesus said in His discourse on the Mount of Olives. They believed that He knew what He was talking about. Acting on His words, they saved their lives. My contention is that we also should trust what Jesus has to say. Our generation needs to 'be always on the watch.'
FILM CORNER

Of Gods and Men

OF GODS AND MEN

I have been thinking about David’s sermon for Advent Sunday One these last two weeks. The point for me in watching and being ready for the events Christ predicted would surround His Second Coming is not to run for the hills but to be available to all those around me who have not yet come to know our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. In hard times, under distressful circumstances, what can we do for our neighbors? I will be writing about these thoughts in 2013.

There are two activities that I think are ideal to put ourselves in the mood for watching and being prepared. One movie, with its somber tone and tragic ending and its deep spiritual impact is more fitting for the mood of Christmas, I believe, than much of the hoopla that surrounds us. I would like to recommend Of Gods and Men. I’m guessing that few of you have seen it.

Rotten Tomatoes, the movie-review-aggregation Web site, notes that the film has a “Tomatometer” (aggregate approval rating) of 93%, based on reviews from 98 critics. Rotten Tomatoes also succinctly catches the tone of this film with the blurb: “Patient and restrained, Of Gods and Men asks deep, profound questions that will linger in the audience’s mind long after the movie.”

Winner of the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film for 2011 as well as the Grand Prize Cannes Film Festival, this is a movie that is surprisingly profound in its statements of faith. Film critic Ann Hornaday writes: “Set in a Cistercian [Catholic] monastery in Algeria in the 1990s, director Xavier Beauvois’s haunting, exquisitely crafted film achieves a flawless balance between taut, truth-based contemporary drama and the timeless question of spiritual commitment and obedience.”

Based on a true story of a group of monks from the monastery of Tibhirine, Algeria, this film doesn’t specifically identify the local, except we know that the monks are French (as its film-master), the story is specifically and perhaps for some unremittingly spiritual and the black and white photography is stunning, in the filmic masterpiece category. Critic Philip Martin catches this aptly in his description, “But you can’t really argue with Beauvois; methods, the way he composes with faces and the blocking of movements. There is a deep and fluid intelligence working in every scene, and every slant of light is tuned not just for beauty, but for effect. Of Gods and Men combines a documentary-style naturalism with the rigor of classicism—any frame from the film might stand as a work of art.

What I love about the message of the film is it clearly deals with the agonizing conflict of what it means to be called to be a light in the world, particularly a world that is treacherous and filled with ambiguity, asking questions like, “Who really is the enemy?” This is not an easy film to watch, and the ending is powerful, but it deals more really than most holiday films with the meaning of Christ’s coming into our lives that must be lived out in this real world.

Critic Martin concludes, “It is a movie that made me sad and proud to be human, to belong to a species capable of such cruelty and such kindness, and possessed of the power to choose to love those who hate us, and to die with peace in our hearts as the world burns down.”

I’ve ordered a copy of the DVD for our personal film library.

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