Let’s have an Advent talk. Early in December were you having conversations that went something like, “Is your tree up? Do you get a real or artificial tree? Do you have white lights or blue, red, and green lights?” (That was a polite discussion in our household every year with me advocating for white lights and the rest of the family wanting lots of color. We compromised by changing it up every other year.) And finally someone boasts that all the gifts are bought and wrapped – and it is not you.
By the time we get to mid-December and December 20th or so conversations are changing to, “Is all your shopping done? Where do you go for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day? Is family nearby?”
Are we losing the joy of anticipating what matters most? Easy-going preparation conversations keep us feeling comfortable and congenial. Have you ever been asked or brought up with another person, “Are you ready for Advent? Have you opened your Advent calendar? Do you have an Advent wreath at home?”
Anticipation and Advent
Anticipation is about hearing the crying of a woman, mother, wife or child who is searching for someone to listen, to care, and to be protected. Advent is being a safe place, making room for voices to be heard, and persevering against all odds for a better life.
Anticipationfeels the cold, the wind and the rain with the refugee seeking safety, wondering where home will be. Advent means accepting the fleeing, providing homes, opportunity for work, and education for children and youth.
Anticipation is about being immersed in the smell of mud and debris yet to be cleared in hurricane ravaged communities waiting for promised assistance. Advent is about action and fulfilling on promises. Advent is about neighbors helping one another when others have forgotten their needs.
Anticipation is about searching for healthy affordable food to taste and instead finding only fast food and corner store high prices in the neighborhood. Advent is planting community gardens. Advent is grocery store corporations investing in food desert communities. Advent is funding for school meal programs.
What would you add to anticipation and Advent? I think of anticipation as becoming aware of the needs around you. Advent is action that responds. It is the in-breaking of God into humanity in the most unlikely way, in a manger with a crying and hungry infant to parents who are sleep deprived and change lots of diapers. This infant named Emmanuel, God with us, grows up to be the Savior of all who believe that when fail and falter, we are forgiven through the grace of Jesus Christ. Notice what is around you, not the sale prices but the ones who cannot afford even what is on sale. Be a companion, friend, listen, and just enjoy one another’s company. As you are searching for the perfect gift or are doing last minute shopping, remembering the Gift that is of ultimate value is your Advent anticipation.
Enjoy this devotion by author and speaker Joyce Rupp from her book, Fragments of Your Ancient Name: 365 Glimpses of the Divine for Daily Meditation, (Sorin Books, 2011) entered for December 16.
Christmas presents. Gifts bestowed
And received. Maybe a surprise or two.
You, the Gift, surpassing all other gifts,
Bring us more than we might expect.
Presents that did not make our list,
Something to wear on the inside of us
Such as truth, generosity, patience,
Reconciliation and respect for one another.
Each Christmas, another gift of growth.
What will you gift us with each year?”
Joyce Rupp reads from her book in this Youtube video. I hope you find her voice as soothing as I do.
In hope, peace, love and joy during Advent with the blessings of Emmanuel upon you this Christmas,
Rev. Cheryl Magrini, Ph.D is a United Methodist clergywoman with specializations in spiritual formation, religious education and mental health ministries. Her heart's desire is for each person to embrace a rich spiritual journey that is the foundation for acts of kindness, being merciful and generous toward others, being courageous in justice, and humble before our Creator.