Links for the Weekend (12/17/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out. (Programming note: After the post you’re currently reading, there will likely be no more posts on the WPCA blog until the New Year.)

Advent Collection: Week Three

The Rabbit Room is a delightful website to which I’ve linked before. The folks behind that site have a compelling vision for excellent art produced by Christians (which is not the same as the “Christian art” with which you may be more familiar). The editors there are curating weekly “collections” during Advent—posts that recommend music, poetry, paintings, etc., which are appropriate for the Advent season. You can find their week three Advent collection here. (You can also check out week one and week two.)

When the Soul Feels its Worth

Andrea Sanborn wrote a brief article connecting the Incarnation of Jesus with our innate desire to matter and be seen.

Life is a vapor. A wisp, a breath; warming, for a time, the souls around us. Holy breath mingles with ours, infusing life into our simple offerings, our stumbling words. God invites us to draw close, as we reach to touch the scepter of grace with trembling fingers.

The Great Challenge of Every Marriage

We move away from the Advent theme for this final recommendation. Tim Challies wrote an article about how God has surprised him in the way marriage has been used for his growth as a Christian. I think all husbands and wives (and, frankly, anyone who merely aspires to be a friend) would benefit from reading.

Certainly there have been times when each of us has helpfully and even formally pointed out where the other has developed patterns of sin and selfishness. There have been times when we have each helped the other fight a particular sin or a general sinfulness. Yet as we look back on the past twenty-three years, we see that this has been relatively rare. It’s not that we don’t see plenty of sin in one another and not that we are firmly opposed to pointing it out. No, it’s more that there is another way that marriage has helped us grow in sanctification—a way in which our efforts are directed at addressing ourselves more than fixing each other.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Philip Rychcik called The Gift of Presence During Advent. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

The Gift of Presence during Advent

Advent is a time for reflection and preparation. Christians meditate on themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation to commemorate the birth of Jesus when celebrating Christmas Day. It is a comfort that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, and His commission is that comfort is proclaimed to all the world (Matthew 28:16–20). The season of Advent provides the followers of Jesus the opportunity to live out the themes of hope, love, joy, and preparation. The season can leave those believers and unbelievers with physical, emotional, and spiritual pain isolated when the presence of God and his people could benefit them the most. This Advent, we can give the present of presence to someone in need of God’s love.

Follow the Divine Example

God best exemplifies the care of others through presence as stated in the Psalms. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 34:1). Consider how the presence of God in these examples and our lives can inspire us to minister to the needs of others.

Yahweh — (1 Kings 19:1–15) When the prophet Elijah was overcome by exhaustion after a dramatic confrontation with the prophets of Baal, the Lord made his presence known. He provided physical nourishment and assurance to Elijah that he was not alone.

Jesus — (Luke 19:1–10) Jesus demonstrated the transformative power of his presence in the account of Zacchaeus, the tax collector. Jesus’s outreach, despite the stigma of associating with a tax collector, resulted in the repentance of Zacchaeus and restitution to all whom he had defrauded.

The Holy Spirit — (John 16:1–15) The Spirit is the comforter promised to the followers of Jesus after he ascended into Heaven. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be a guide and support through persecution and the mission to preach the Good News of salvation to the world. The Spirit is an ever-present help (John 14:16).

The Ministry of Presence

In his article, The Ministry of Presence, Dr. Stephen Davey describes every Christian as qualified for the ministry of presence. “You do not have to be anything but available to be a wonderful tool in the hand of God.”

To participate in the ministry of presence, we need to be mindful and prayerful of family members, church members, fellow students, colleagues, and others we know who require support. Make an invitation tailored to the individual’s specific circumstances on your heart. For example, one person with a medical condition may benefit from transportation to an appointment or a visitation in the home. In contrast, one with a contagious illness may be ministered to by a telephone or video call. No matter how a person is suffering—the death of a loved one, loss of employment, or a traumatic diagnosis—the ministry of presence is appropriate.

Davey quotes author Joseph Bayly to explain how mere presence is often more valuable than words.

I was sitting, torn by grief. Someone came and talked to me of God’s dealings, of why it happened, of hope beyond the grave. He talked constantly; he said things I [already] knew were true. I was unmoved, except I wished he’d go away. He finally did. Another came and sat beside me for an hour and more; listened when I said something, answered briefly, prayed simply and left. I was moved. I was comforted. I hated to see him go.

Davey warns against the well-intentioned impulse to quote the Bible and offer platitudes to those we serve. A genuinely applicable verse or nugget of wisdom can be perceived as trite and dismissive to a person in pain if it is made with an inappropriate tone or timing. Instead, we can focus on being present, not profound.

The ministry of presence is risky, and we can take that risk because we’ve experienced the loving presence of God ourselves. Because God has sought us out and made his dwelling with us through Jesus, we can extend ourselves when the task is unpleasant or when we may not be appreciated. God has much to offer both believer and unbeliever through our presence: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14)

‘Tis The Season To Serve

Advent allows the Christian to reflect on the present and presence that define Christmas and Christianity: Christ Jesus. The present God gave the world he so loved (John 3:16) modeled a ministry of presence for all of us to follow (John 13:34–35). Jesus was intentionally present with the lost, hurt, sick, and poor of society. The joy that Advent heralds transcends our circumstances. Still, life circumstances can steal that joy from the people around us afflicted by physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. Therefore, as recipients of God’s gracious presence, let us minister to those who need a loving presence this Advent and in the year to come.

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Links for the Weekend (12/10/2021)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

How Mary’s Song Bridges The Old and New Testament

We may not often think of how the Old Testament shaped the thoughts and meditations of the characters in the New Testament. Katy Morgan looks at Mary’s Song as an example of someone rejoicing in what God has been doing for generations.

Once you start seeing it, you can’t stop: the writers of the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, have a worldview shaped by the Old Testament. They constantly refer to the history of God’s people; their whole understanding of God comes from there. People around Jesus made sense of him by referring back to what God had always been like and what he had always promised.

Advent Meditation: Sigh No More

Brett McCracken reflects on the theme of hope in Isaiah 35.

Maybe one day—when “Emmanuel” is our everyday ex­perience (hallelujah!)—we’ll look back on this life of lonely exile and feel gratitude for how the sighs and sorrows made us hungrier for the everlasting feast, and the fullness of joy, that will be ours forever.

A Great Way To Make Friends

At a time when making new friends can be difficult, Seth Lewis encourages us to focus first on being a good friend to others.

Finding friends can be hard. But if you spend your time and energy loving and serving the people around you whenever you can, however you can, with whatever you have to give, then eventually you might be surprised to see that you’ve got real, deep friendships growing all around you. So many people are looking for friends. If you’re friendly, then they are looking for you. This Christmas, why not take the opportunity to reach out to someone? 


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

While We Wait: Advent with Children

The season of Advent comes at a time when many families are already busy with holiday preparations and extra events. School parties, band concerts, and shopping trips fill our calendars, and the to-do list seems to grow as the hours shrink. A daily or even weekly Advent practice can feel like another thing to manage during the busiest time of the year—another “should” when we are already feeling spent. 

However, an intentional time of reflection with our children can be a respite instead of a chore, a time to quiet ourselves and remember that the many tasks and traditions that fill our holiday season are not the real celebration. We are merely waiting for the ultimate joy in the ways we remember Christ’s first arrival and in the celebration yet to come when he returns.

Simple Practices

An Advent tradition in our homes opens a wide opportunity for telling the gospel story in a way that will be memorable and will heighten the anticipation that children already feel this time of year. As parents who are intentional with our time and teaching opportunities, we can shape our kids’ understanding of Jesus by pointing them to the miracle of his birth.

Your practice can be very simple, perhaps a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at bedtime or a candlelit prayer after dinner. You can purchase or make an Advent wreath for your mantel or table and continue the candle-lighting tradition that we enjoy in church each Sunday. Paired with a song, the lighting of a candle can be the perfect way to end a busy day with a short family worship time. (Our family sings this song as we light our candles.)

A paper chain from colorful construction paper is a quick, inexpensive way to observe a countdown to Christmas. You can write a Scripture verse or a word of gratitude on each loop, or simply add one loop each day as you read through the daily Advent reading guide provided at WPCA. With or without a physical countdown, the reading guide is a beautiful addition to the days of Advent. A brief reading from the Bible and a hymn each day work together to tell the full story of Christ’s coming.

A Jesse Tree is a popular choice among Christian families. Jesse Tree sets can be purchased, made, or simply printed. More information can be found here.

More Resources

The following resources may also enhance your family’s Advent season. Music and calendars are easy ways to experience the anticipation of Christ’s coming. If you are looking for something more comprehensive and perhaps ambitious, you may like to explore the daily crafts in The Truth in the Tinsel or the multi-disciplinary plans in A Connected Christmas, linked below. (Note: The resources recommended below all require a purchase.)

Waiting Songs by Rain for Roots

Music is the perfect way to set the tone! This album from Rain for Roots is created for a young audience, but the simple beauty of the folk-style music will appeal to listeners of all ages. With Christmas music playing in every store and on many radio stations, Waiting Songs reminds us that the celebration has not yet begun. The selection of tunes with their thoughtful lyrics captures both the story of the Messiah’s arrival, as well as the mood of anticipating something wonderful.

The Giving Manger

This sweet activity turns acts of kindness into a cozy bed for Baby Jesus as children place pieces of straw into a little manger. The Giving Manger by Allison Hottinger and Lisa Kalberer emphasizes “gifting” others with our love and service, and in turn, our acts are a worshipful gift to Jesus himself. The concept can be easily recreated without purchasing the specific book and manger. 

The Christmas Promise

The Christmas Promise is a book and calendar combination. As the days of Advent pass, children seek letters to complete a hidden message. The illustrations are bright and cheerful, and the lift-the-flap calendar is fun to explore. A video sneak-peek is available on the website. 

The Littlest Watchman (book and calendar)

The Littlest Watchman shares the “big picture” story of the Bible, combining prophecy and the Christmas story in a tale of expectation and wonder. The book places emphasis on waiting on God for the fulfillment of his promises. 

The Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands

This ebook provides a brief devotional with a craft for each day of Advent. There are alternative schedules included for people who do not wish to do an activity every day. Supplies are not included. The crafts are fairly simple and appeal to a wide age range. The website also offers printable ornaments and a parent prayer guide for purchase.

A Connected Christmas

A Connected Christmas by Treehouse Schoolhouse is a three-week home education curriculum that combines scripture, hymns, poetry, crafts, art study, handwriting practice, and read-alouds in a carefully organized format. A digital download or a printed copy can be purchased from the website.

Set Aside Perfection

Every family will find some practices work better than others. Time constraints, ages of children, and financial considerations may play a part in your choices. Acknowledging Advent with your children likely will not look like a shiny picture in a magazine. As a person who annually and happily displays a green baby Jesus colored by a four year old, I encourage you to abandon perfection in favor of honoring the beautiful story of anticipation and redemption that God has created. 

If you do not frequently gather as a family to have devotions or family worship, perhaps an Advent practice will be the beginning of a new routine for the upcoming year. We can model what it looks like to celebrate Christmas as an expression of faith, not a race with our busy culture. 

Finally, as with any practice involving children, set aside your expectations and remember that less is often more. May we open our hearts to the things that children teach us as we journey together toward the manger.

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Links for the Weekend (12/4/2020)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Advent in a Global Pandemic

David Mathis writes about the themes of darkness and light as they relate to this year and the Advent season. The bottom line? “But Advent looks darkness square in the eye and issues this great promise for our season of waiting: darkness will not overcome the Light.”

Advent, the season of waiting and preparation before the high feast of Christmas, is a chance to regain spiritual sanity, and create fresh and healthier rhythms personally and as a family and as churches. As we enter the six darkest weeks of the year in this hemisphere, we will pivot midway to mark the greatest and brightest turning point in all history: the birth of Christ. And perhaps this Advent will begin restoring what the locusts have taken this year.

An Advent Series on Christmas Carols

The Daily Grace Podcast is doing a series during Advent which examines Christmas carols. There will be a new carol explored each week (new podcasts are posted on Tuesday mornings) including a performance by an artist, history on the background of the song, and reminders of the gospel message throughout. Here’s a link to the first episode in this series—the subject is the song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

Older Women, Young Churches Need You

Hannah Nation explains why older women are such a crucial part of local churches, especially churches with lots of younger members. She also explains how younger women can benefit from relationships with their elders in the faith.

These concerns bring to mind the words Paul wrote to Titus. He writes that older women “are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled” (2:3–5). Older women who mentor, disciple, and care for younger women are an essential part of a biblical community.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article by Sarah Wisniewski called Quarantine, Regret, and the Gospel. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Thanks to Maggie A and Sarah W for their help in rounding up links this week.

Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/20/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Come, Desire of Nations, Come: An Advent Reflection

Here is a wonderful extended meditation on Haggai 2:7, one of the lesser-used prophecies about the Messiah. Matthew Arbo notes the reference to this verse in the hymn Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and writes about the need for God to shake the nations before the desire of all nations will come.

He is the desire of all nations whether the nations know him or not. He isn’t the desire of just some nations. He is the desire of all nations. The nations desire him irrespective of whether they acknowledge him or not. He is the object of their deepest and highest longing, for the kingdom is the Lord’s, and he rules over the nations (Ps. 22:28). 

Three Things to Remember When Giving Comfort to Grieving People

The holiday season can amplify loneliness and grief. Randy Alcorn gives three helpful things to remember when we have friends who are grieving.

If we don’t know what to say to a friend in crisis, remember that so long as Job’s friends remained quiet, they helped him bear his grief. Later, when they began giving unsolicited advice and rebuke, Job not only had to deal with his suffering, but with his friends’ smug responses, which added to his suffering.  

The Enduring Power of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Eric Metaxas writes at BreakPoint about the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

Dickens’ classic shoots down the idea—prevalent in some Christian circles—that reading novels is a waste of time. They seem to forget that Jesus Himself was a master storyteller. For instance, He didn’t just say, “Come to the aid of those who need help.” Instead, He told a vivid story about a Samaritan who rescues a wounded man.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article written by Sarah Wisniewski called Consider the Sycamore. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!

Thanks to Cliff L for his help in rounding up links this week.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/13/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

Jesus’s Birth through Four Biblical, Literary Forms

Davis Wetherell points to four different types of writing in Scripture and shows how they can all be used to point to Jesus.

We’ll look at prophecy, theology, song of praise, and narrative. By looking at these four literary forms, it is my hope that we will see Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, the inexhaustible object of study, the reason for worship, and the resolution of all conflict.

There Will Most Assuredly Come A Morning

Here’s an article about the death of a young child and the hope that his parents have found in Christ. Our world is full of sadness, but the Resurrection will come.

On a day like today, as I remember the pain of last year, and as Finn’s parents weep and remember, there is a God above who is faithful, who is bringing a morning so bright that all this pain will certainly be in comparison light and momentary. And all those little things we miss today he will restore. In our mourning, in Christ, we can know that there will most assuredly come a morning. The years that the locusts have taken will be ours again, and no one will snatch them from our resurrected hands.

The Voice That Made the World

What does it mean that Jesus is our prophet? This is an important question, but especially so during Advent, when we understand Jesus’s birth as the fulfillment of so much prophecy. Here’s a great explanation.

The voice of the Old Testament prophets was often disregarded and mocked, even by God’s own people. Today, all God’s people hear Jesus’s voice, even as his words are disregarded and mocked in the world. But we can have confidence that all people will ultimately hear the name and voice of Jesus and bow the knee to him (Philippians 2:9–11). Even today, we can hear and submit to the voice of God in the words of Jesus.


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/6/2019)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

10 Best Advent Albums of the 2010s

I suspect I’m not alone in having a strong association of Advent and Christmas with music. Just in time for the season, Brett McCracken shares his favorite Advent albums of the last decade. There are links to stream the albums; you might just find yourself a nice soundtrack for the next three weeks.

I’ve been encouraged, for example, that in the last few decades there has been a renaissance of Advent–focused Christmas music: music that is theologically rich and, while still joyful, somewhat more somber and serious than pop Christmas radio. This music helps listeners enter into the Advent story in a way that focuses on spiritual contemplation more than tinsel-drenched merriment.

You Can Be Anxious About Nothing

The command from Paul in Philippians to be “anxious about nothing”—well, it can’t really mean nothing, can it? It sometimes feels like stress and anxiety are simply a part of the human experience. Kim Cash Tate wrestles with this command in an article over at Desiring God.

Alternatively, we tell ourselves that “do not be anxious about anything” is for the spiritually mature saint, a verse to aspire to. And since we’re not there yet, we can dismiss this direct command for a while. Moreover, we’re careful not to burden others with it. If a fellow believer is battling anxious thoughts, we think it insensitive to bring this verse to bear on the situation. Better to show sympathy than to risk sounding trite.  

How Can Jesus Be Our Everlasting Father?

Another article here that is Advent-adjacent. David Sunday helps us think about the title “Everlasting Father” for the Messiah in Isaiah 9.

Of all the names attributed to Jesus in Isaiah 9:6, Everlasting Father intrigues me the most because it’s the one I understand the least. How can Jesus the Messiah, the second person of the Godhead, be called Everlasting Father?

On the WPCA Blog This Week

This week on the blog we published an article I wrote called Jesus Did Not Come to Bring Peace on Earth. If you haven’t already seen it, check it out!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the individuals or groups referenced here. 

Links for the Weekend (12/14/2018)

Each Friday, I’ll post links to 3–5 resources from around the web you may want to check out.

A Podcast

Risen Motherhood is a podcast aimed at mothers. Here is part of their description from their About page.

This is a community that will remind you of gospel-truth, no matter how you feel about your motherhood. It’s for the imperfect mother, still learning, still growing and still fully recognizing she doesn’t have it all together, but we serve a God who does.

If you don’t know about this podcast, there’s a lot to explore on their web page. They have a list of recommended resources (music, podcasts, and books, among other things) as well as resources aimed specifically at children

Of course, their main undertaking is a podcast that releases every Wednesday. If you’re looking for a place to begin, try this interview with Nancy Guthrie on trusting God with your children.

An Article on Bible Reading

In this article at LifeWay Voices, Trevin Wax writes about how routine Bible reading can change your life.

It’s not every day that you find something extraordinary that stays with you. But every day, in the ordinary routine of reading your Bible, you’re still eating. You’re coming to the table, asking the Lord to sustain you and nourish you through His Word. You’re coming to the Gospels, looking to see the Savior again and again. This is an ordinary routine, yes, but ordinary routines can change your life.

An Advent Resource

If you’re looking for something to do with your family during Advent, try these Advent printables from Faith Gateway that correspond to the Jesus Storybook Bible. You’ll need to hand over your email address, but you’ll get an Advent reading plan that can work for kids of all ages.

On the WPCA Blog This Week

We kicked off the WPCA blog this week with a wonderful article by Erica Goehring entitled “Called Inside.” If you haven’t yet read it, check it out!


Thanks to Maggie A and Sarah W for suggestions for this batch of links!


Note: Washington Presbyterian Church and the editors of this blog do not necessarily endorse all content produced by the groups referenced here.