Beloved in Christ,
For many of us, December is a month full of “I should” and “I have to.” We have our usual responsibilities at home, at work, or school. Perhaps there is even more to do than normal as students and educators face the end of a term and we all scramble toward the close of the calendar year. And then there is the joyful but exhausting work of the Christmas season: travel arrangements and holiday parties, Christmas decorations and gift-shopping.
The church season of Advent, which starts four Sundays before Christmas (December 3rd this year), offers us an alternative. Where our society plays Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving (and in some places the day after Halloween!!!), Advent invites us to quiet our hearts and wait for Christ. Where our society sees December as a month-long shopping spree so we can shower one another with gifts, Advent calls us to turn away from consumerism and await the gift of the incarnation. Where our society says “speed up,” Advent says “slow down.”
Too often, though, Advent can feel like just one more “should,” an item on an ever-growing to-do list, or a guilt trip added to the franticness of our holiday preparations. But I wonder… what would it be like to experience the Advent season not as a chore, but as a gift? Here are some ways I might explore the gift of Advent this year, ways that might be helpful for you too:
“…let justice roll down like a river…”
Perhaps we could choose holiday gifts that help justice roll down. We could choose to stem the rising tide of consumerism, giving fewer and smaller gifts. We could choose fair-trade items produced by justly compensated workers, or gifts made by local artists. For the loved one who has everything, perhaps we could make a small charitable gift in their honor.
“…the people who have walked in darkness have seen a great light…”
Advent is all about waiting in darkness, yet we are constantly surrounded by glowing screens and illuminated light bulbs. Perhaps we could choose to “unplug” a bit in Advent, turning off the computers and televisions and lights, and spending a bit more time with the darkness.
“…be still and know that I am God…”
Even in the midst of the hustle and bustle of December, perhaps we could find moments to be still. Perhaps we could reflect on Sunday’s scriptures on our Monday morning commute. Perhaps we could offer prayers for those in need near and far while we wait in a long check-out line.
“…let it be…”
In a month where so many are consumed by perfectionism, I treasure Mary’s words to the angel: “let it be.” I treasure these words which challenge me to accept what is, even if it isn’t what I had envisioned. And so when the Christmas machine pushes us all to spend more, speed up, do and be it all, I pray that we will remember Mary’s words to the angel, and God’s gift of grace and love given that we may have life abundant. And I pray that we will slow down, take a breath, and let it be. Amen.