What if you are more a verb than a noun.
More an action than a being.
And what if the same is true about Advent
As we begin that journey to Christmas.
Then, maybe instead of Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas
This becomes our wish for ourselves, each other and the world in which we live.
To be peace.
To be hope.
To be light.
To be God with us.
What if, O God…
I don’t know when we got it.
The angel which tops our Christmas tree.
But we have had her/him for a long time.
For as many Christmases as I can remember.
I like seeing her/him there.
Especially this year because I have found myself pondering the Fear Not Angels of Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus.
Remember how the story goes?
An angel or angels appear
To the shepherds.
And the first thing they say is:
Which is probably a good thing because my reaction at having an angel appear like that would be something close to fear. And, truth be told, even with their Fear Not greeting, I would probably be at least a bit wary.
I have been thinking about what it means to Fear Not when there is, obviously, much to fear.
Another school shooting.
Politicians who, with what they say, create space for violence.
And, as Brother Roger, founder of the Taize Community in France, wrote:
(Please excuse the non-inclusive language)
“Man’s inhumanity to man.”
In spite of…
Or, because of…
All which surrounds us and which surrounded them, the angels appear with their greeting.
Speaking, I think, not just about their sudden, surprising appearance and message, but about how we are called to live today.
I don’t miss worrying about the budget.
Or, about the person who is upset by something I said or didn’t say.
I don’t miss doing my best to stay calm amidst the office angst over the extra work to be done.
Or waiting for the call from the funeral home.
I don’t miss the demand (framed as a request) for one more thing to do.
Or, the last minute deadline for something inadvertently forgotten.
I do miss seeing the Advent wreath front and center in the sanctuary.
I do miss the deep purple ribbons on the wreaths on the front door.
I do miss the child running down the center aisle to give me a hug.
I do miss watching the candles being lit and singing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”
I do miss searching for the best words I can find to help turn those who are gathered in the direction of the wonder and mystery and meaning of Christmas.
The word joy gets more air time than usual this time of year.
On Christmas greetings sent back and forth.
Joy to the World sung by congregations and choirs.
With Advent candles lit in churches and in homes.
Whenever I hear or read the word joy I am reminded of the observation by Thomas Merton.
A quote I have carried with me and pondered for many years.
“[We] were not created for happiness, but for joy. If we do not yet know the difference we have not yet begun to live.”
After hearing the word joy several times this morning in the worship service I watched, I found myself, once again, thinking about joy as I went on my morning walk.
I think joy is more external than internal.
Something that emerges in our interactions with others.
At least that is what seems true in my life.
Imagining and creating a whole new world under a sheet with my grandson.
Special moments spent with my sons and my wife and good friends.
Standing outside a newly built or repaired home with a homeowner who never dreamed what she now sees would ever be possible.
And, at least for me, joy is subtle.
More often quiet than something announced with trumpets loud crashing cymbals.
Maybe that is because I am an introvert.
Or, maybe that is just the way joy is.
And, I think we miss joy in our lives because we focus too much on happiness.
Because happiness often is framed in individual terms.
Am I happy?
Are my children happy?
Merton touched on something beyond my knowing.
At least today.
And probably tomorrow, as well.
And so I will continue to live pondering his wisdom.
And hoping to find my way.
Today marks the first day of Advent.
As tradition dictates,
(At least our tradition)
Our Advent wreath finds its place on our dining room table.
Purple ribbon and purple candles.
Electric candles, which will be turned on each evening between now and Epiphany, have been placed in each window.
The Santa painted ski now stands by the door.
Assorted other decorations find their place on window sills or above doorways.
So many memories.
The first ornament my parents bought when my Dad was in the Air Force and stationed in Alaska. Ornaments our children made when they were children. The ornament I made for our first Christmas together. The straw angel which has graced the top of our Christmas tree for as long as I can remember.
So much the same.
And, so much different.
This will be the first Advent when I will not add my voice to the voices of others as we sing Come Thou Long Expected Jesus and Once in Royal David’s City.
This will be the first Christmas we will not gather with family.
This will be the first Christmas I won’t be in a sanctuary on Christmas Eve.
Yet, here’s the thing.
With things either the same or different.
Into this weary world.
Into our weary lives.
Just as it is.
Just as we are.
Or a bit both
Today Advent begins.
Our candles are in the windows.
Somewhere, O God
In some forgotten corner of our lives or world
In some ordinary and precious moment
In some person
(Maybe more than one I hope and pray)
May Christmas come
Beyond our trees and tinsel
Beyond our gift wrapping and gift giving.
In some place
May peace break out.
In some unexpected moment
May an angel appear.
In some life
May courage take root.
In some searching
May a way be found.
In some darkness
May a light shine.
In some cry
May new life emerge.
Somewhere, O God
May Christmas come.
For the Fourth Sunday in Advent.