26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”[a] 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:26-33)
I noticed this year that Christmas advertising began before Halloween. Maybe I’m really a scrooge at heart but that seems so parasitic – making money off of a day we celebrate that is supposed to make us stop walking in the values of this world and do something from our more noble places: by considering the birth of a child who came to bring us back to our true nature – capable of compassion, mercy, love and peace. I know there is something really tempting about hearing Christmas Carols for an extended period – not just a short holiday. But the church tradition is very intentional about given the longest time to Advent – that is, the waiting, the preparation, that comes before Christmas.
You may know from your own experience that when you get something you want fast – it feels fleeting – and it hurries by and before you know it, you missed it. The joy you anticipated is already past. It’s like that with any good thing – and one way to help us hold on to a powerful event like Christmas, is to take our time getting up to it; to linger on each step of approach; to lead with contemplation and appreciation, one step at a time.
I’d like to invite you into an intentional antidote to the commercialism of the Christmas season – and some ways to dive deeply into the gift this time of year really can be. Let it be Advent, not Christmas. Let it be the time of preparation and quiet, even if that’s just in the mornings before you start your day, or the evenings when your labor has ended.
- Pick up an Advent devotional or book that gives you daily readings you can sit with. We’ll have some at the doors of the church for you to pick up. You can order your own! Some wonderful ones are listed here on the MACUCC site and the UCC Resources site.
- Commit to an Advent practice that brings you deeper and closer to our God . . . like we do in Lent sometimes. What about a daily practice of gratitude? It can shift and change the way you are experiencing your life, and it turns out there is science that shows it also is really good for you.
(Fredrickson, Positivity, 2009 https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/positivity-barbara-fredrickson/1110776457?ean=9780307393746#/)
(Matt Bloom, Wellbeing at Work, (www.wellbeing.nd.edu).
Do a daily gratitude inventory. Appreciate goodness everywhere – in the events of the day, in the people around you. Praise God! Combine this with acts of appreciation and count them. It can all start with these easy words: “Here’s something I really appreciate about you . . .” “I am thankful for . . .”
- For a social media-active-person: try a digital Advent calendar like #Adventword2018 which you can join at www.adventword.org from the Virginia Theological Seminary. They have sites on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter you can follow. Throughout Advent, they give you a daily #word with imagery and a brief reflection. You can then make a reflection of your own using that same hashtag on your own Facebook page e.g. This can be a lovely way to make visible the time of watching and preparing, of discerning and remembering what it means that Christ was born then and now.
- Join us for each Sunday worship in Advent as we explore the way Angels, or Messengers of God, spoke throughout the Christmas story in the days before and after Jesus’ birth. We’ll have a special Advent program for all ages on Sunday, December 9 after worship.
Any of these practices and others you might think of could support you walking quietly in the tenderness of the holy season leading us toward Christmas. This is a gift you can give to yourself and to all those around you this year . . . and it fits every budget.
35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born[d] will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:35-38)
Let us wait, with Mary, and prepare for the coming of the one was, and is, to change the world! Wishing you the quiet joy of this season,