For the first time in 20 years, our family Christmas tree is standing tall, fully decorated…and the season of Advent has just begun. Part of me wonders if the Advent Cops will show up to chastise me, but for the most part, I feel elated, relieved, and delighted.
I had almost forgotten what it is like to ‘get ready for Christmas' so early in Advent, the season our Church sets aside to wait, watch, and wonder. But this year, way ahead of time, our house is fully decked out, not only with the tree, but also with the creches (minus baby Jesus who won’t appear until Christmas Eve), with bright red candles, and even the funky old Santa Clauses we’ve had for years. All of these things are scattered throughout our house, placed there lovingly by my amazing, can-do Elf daughter, Margaret, and her equally amazing Elf-squad husband and children. Last Saturday, we spent all afternoon decorating the house, followed by a Chinese takeout supper. When they drove home, I was all set for Christmas - way ahead of time.
What brought about this major change in my Advent pattern? It could be convenience, it could be having the time to actually do it…it could be several things, but I believe this change came from the sermon our priest-in-charge, Buddy Stallings, preached on Advent 1.
I am not quoting his sermon directly; I may have heard things he never said (that happens frequently with preachers: folks hear things we don’t remember ever saying!). But what I heard him say was: Advent is a wonderful, joyous time - a time to stand on tiptoe, to think about the incomprehensible Gift of Goodness, and Hope that is about to break upon us…So let’s ACT like it! Let’s pay close attention to whom, and to what is before us now, today: the colors, the music, the jingling bells, even (some of ) the corny retail things. In spite of how things may seem in our lives and in our world, God has something unimaginably good in store; there are signs of Light and Hope all around us, if we are awake and aware enough to notice.
“Give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light…” is my favorite Advent prayer (the Collect for Advent 1). As trite as this may sound, one way I decided to ‘put on the armor of light,’ to live more in the present moment, was to literally ‘lighten up’ myself: to spend these Advent weeks facing forward, preparing the way, spreading joy, being generous, laughing and loving, even when (or maybe especially when) I don’t feel like doing that. It has been an amazing experience so far.
God knows, the darkness is all around us, and sometimes within us. But Advent’s promise shines forth brighter and stronger than all the forces of darkness. That is a truth worth pondering, worth celebrating, worth sharing in whatever ways we can, in the silence of our hearts, with our families, in our church community. As I write this, darkness is descending outside; it’s time to turn on our Christmas tree lights, strung way ahead of time, and let their lights shine forth and dispel the darkness.
Thank you, Mimsy, and Buddy, for bringing me into the moment of this season!
Beautifully said,Thank YOU
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