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As much as I love Christmas, I’m not a huge fan of the busy-ness.  I suspect this is an introvert thing and Christmas requires shopping. I’ve finally come to the realization that I don’t mind finding things I need.  It’s the lights and the crowds and the noise.  This morning I ran out of tape and am contemplating how I can use painter’s tape just so I don’t have to leave the house.

I just want to sit on the sofa in the dark and stare at Christmas lights while sipping a cup of coffee.  Eventually I’ll light the candles on my Advent wreath and meditate.  Quiet time with God gives me the Light and Hope I need to venture back into the hustle and bustle.

That said, quiet time can be tough to find at this time of year.  But make sure you get a few minutes here and there.  It is, after all, the balm needed by a soul stretched thin in spots from doing too much.  Good things.  Fun things. Family things.  It doesn’t matter.  Too much is too much.

It is okay to need some quiet time with your own thoughts and with Him.

–SueBE

 

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It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

I’m not sure why, but when I saw it this quote reminded me of Lori’s “Inviting Christmas In.”  In her post, Lori wrote about how gift buying and gift wrapping can overpower our Christmas.

Is it just me or does the commercial onslaught seem to strike earlier and earlier every year?  Catalogues and Black Friday sales and Pre-Black Friday sales.  And all of the causes that want you to give – Nissan will give matching funds if you donate a small gift, only $300, right now.  And shouldn’t you add a security system to keep your family safe?  Don’t you care?

Okay, I’m going to admit it.  This time of year?  I don’t answer the door without looking first.  And I don’t bother with the peep-hole.  I look out my bedroom window.  Text me before you come over.  I find all the hard sells wearing so I just don’t engage.

Christ?  You saw the quote.  He comes uninvited too but he doesn’t ring the bell.  He comes when I sit quietly and sip my coffee next to the fireplace.  He joins me as I mix up a batch of candy for our cantata reception.  He’s beside me in the choir and as we hang our worries on the tree during out first Advent service.

Christ finds his way in.

–SueBE

I have to admit it.  I adore Christmas.  Adore it.

It is the one time of year that I get into glitter and shimmer and WOW.  Otherwise, I’m a denim, battered boot kind of girl.

But Christmas draws me in.  Tomorrow I’m heading into the basement on a quest for our advent wreath.  We’ve had this same wreath since my teen was a baby but then again it is a silver pillar plate.  On it we place votive candles.  Did you know votive candles were first made to light in prayer?  A ring of prayer candles on a plate.  It helps me remember to turn to God in prayer even when things are crazy hectic.

And I’m making a new outdoor decoration.  I love the lights.  Just love them.  But the decorations that draw me in?  Nativities and stars.  Snowflakes and light strings.  Our new piece is a pallet painted with a star and strung with solar lights.  Yep.  I’m even nerdy and green at Christmas.

But what may be the best part of Christmas?  When people remember those who have less.  Who are in need.  Our church helps fill backpacks for children taken into foster care.  We’ve already delivered the crib full of coats.  We always have a food barrel but now is when it gets a real workout.

Take the time to slow down for a moment here and there this holiday season.  Center yourself on the why of it all.   And go into the world with the peace and love that are His call to us all.  When the commercialism gets to you, return to that focus.  Make this Holy season your own.

–SueBE

This coming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent.  Advent, the season that prepares us for the coming of Christ.  A time of anticipation and preparation.

Last Sunday, we discussed Glory and what it means to each of us.  The author of our lesson discussed the way we use the word in our daily lives.  “Not me,” I told the group.  “I don’t tend to use it.  When I say glory, I think God.”

Across the table, one of our engineers nodded.  “Awe.  Wonder.  Splendor.  The vastness that is God. It is bigger than anything we can imagine.

And, in all honesty, I have to say that pretty much sums God up for me.  Bigger than anything I can imagine.  Relatable?  Not in the least.

Personally, I think that is why Christ came to Earth as a baby.  A baby you can cradle in your arms.  A baby you can see and love and at least begin to understand.  Vastness understandable through Love.

–SueBE

When God sent His Son as a small babe into the world, he did it with great intention.  Here was our savior.  Here was the grace that we needed to finally find God.   Approach the manger with the intention of an open heart.  You will find what you need to carry His Love into our broken world.

–SueBE

 

Advent is a season of anticipation. We await the coming of Christ, pure God and pure human, in the person of a newborn babe. But we know that, don’t we? We’ve heard the Christmas story a hundred times — probably more. Maybe it’s time to try something new.

In her Advent booklet, “Daybreaks,” author Paula D’Arcy challenges us to approach God in a startlingly innovative way: Without demands, without preconceptions, without an agenda. All we need do is walk forward. Or simply wait in silence. Sound easy? Ay, but there’s the rub.

I can’t remember a time when I came to God without a laundry list of desires, hopes, fears, plans and petitions. I expect things from God. I expect a response. I expect that I know what I want and need, both for myself and those I love.

But do I? As a good friend of mine likes to say, “How’s that working for you?” To which I can only reply, “So-so.” To come before God prepared with an agenda provides a false sense of control over my life. It helps me feel organized, prepared, on track. I’ve never been comfortable traveling my life’s journey without a map or even a compass, but now I see that the moments where I’ve allowed myself to jump off a proverbial cliff without a parachute have been the most satisfying and spiritually rewarding times in my life. That’s a big pill for a control freak to swallow.

What if we approach Advent, which is after all, the start of a new canonical year in the Catholic Church and directly prefaces our calendar New Year, without a list? What if, instead of knowing what we’re waiting for, we forget all that and see what happens instead? What if we abolish resolutions and admit that we just don’t know?

And, most importantly, what if we commit to walking toward Jesus without our usual burden of expectations? Maybe we’ll find him in the manger, just as we thought. Or maybe we’ll find him in the last place we think to look: in the face of a stranger, in the words of those we disagree with.

It takes strength to take a journey without knowing its end. But if the magi can do it, why can’t we?

Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent.  As part of the celebration, our youth gathered at the front of the church and lit the first candle in the Advent wreath.  The first candle?  It represents hope.

It is so easy to feel hopeless.  So many are sick.  In our Sunday school class alone, we have three people being treated for various kinds of cancer, one with a bad knee, and a lady with chronic depression.  In the past week, there have been car accidents which means totalled cars and injuries.  And that’s just among those of us in one class and their families.  Add into this environmental issues, the economy and politics and . . . Can’t you feel it?  Hope is ebbing for so many of us.

When I feel it start to get me down, I try to remember to turn to the youth.  Just among our children, we have intellectuals and artists, a young man with a profound sense of what is right and wrong, and several budding scientists and more.

Hope in the time of Advent goes beyond what we can do with our own hands. It encompasses the Hope to be found in Christ, the living word of God, the light of the world.  But these youth? They are a reminder.  Their energy, their drive, their determination remind me of what can be done in His name.  And then I remember to be grateful.

–SueBE

nativityI just had someone at my front door wanting to explain to me why Christ died for us and why we have Christmas. They even had a video. It was a little surreal.

Apparently, Adam is a businessman who steals from his company leading workers to lose their jobs and electricity.  Jesus is the good businessman who pays the bills and gets the lights turned back on — that’s why he died.  That’s why we have Christmas.

Of course, she looked at me and said, “What do you think of that?”

One day I will learn to smile and nod but that day is not today. But I did filter.  It was oh so obvious that this was a message meant to play on people’s fears of the economy and not being able to pay their bills. In my opinion, it rather missed the point but a lot of work had gone into it so I didn’t want to criticize the video itself. “It seems overly simplistic.”

“Then why do you think Christ died?”

After the businessman analogy, I knew I couldn’t give her the entire answer.  Christ died to bring an end to the cycle of sin followed by the sacrifices needed to get back in God’s good graces.  Christ died to bring us grace.  Christ is the ultimate sacrifice.

I decided instead to focus on Christmas.  It’s a prettier story.  “The Christmas season is a time of waiting, of contemplation, of preparing yourself for the coming of Christ.”

“By reading scripture?”

“And prayer and worship and whatever it takes to get you as an individual ready.  I need solitude and music.”

“That’s too confusing. What did you mean by the coming of Christ?  The end times?”

“Eventually, but also the coming of the Christ child.  You have to prepare yourself to accept him and his message and the acceptance and love he brought mankind.”

Prepare the way.  That’s the whole message of the Advent season.  Prepare your heart to accept his message of love and acceptance and mercy for all.  His sacrifice washed away our sins and the condemnation that required blood sacrifice to cleanse our souls.  Prepare yourself for Christ.

He has come not to condemn the world but so that the world through him might be saved.

–SueBE

candle-1841492_1920It’s hard to believe. Tomorrow is the second Sunday in Advent.  We’ll light the second candle in preparation for the coming of the Christ child.

But I’m just not feeling the joy of Christmas.  It doesn’t help that I’ve got a righteous head cold.  You’ll know me by the tissue box I tote everywhere I go.  I’m 98% certain that I got this particular virus from the lady who sat next to me at the funeral earlier in the week. One of my friends lost her not-quite 20 year-old son. He told his boss that he had a really bad headache and then . . . he was gone.

Yes, I’m doing my shopping.  In fact, I have the lion’s share done.  I’m knitting the lace scarf I need for the concert. Today I’m buying Christmas cards.

But I just don’t feel it.

And that’s okay.  This time of year can be tough for those who have recently lost someone. It can be hard for those who have a chronic illness (no, I’m not saying a head cold is a chronic illness) or those who are having money worries, marriage problems, or other hardships.

The thing we need to remember is that God welcomes us as we are. He knows our worries.  He knows our cares.  He doesn’t expect us to be anyone other than the flawed beings that we are, doing the best we can, feeling what we feel, and praying for a better tomorrow.

Yesterday, thanks to this cold, I was able to give myself two extra hours in bed and some time on the sofa with my knitting and the ever-present tissue box.  In the quiet, I sat in the pool of light in the family room, the rest of the house stretching out dark and quiet. I could hear the occasional click of my needles and the ping of the kettle on the burner in the kitchen. It felt like . . . a time of quiet, a time of waiting.

I may not be feeling the glitz and sparkle of Christmas, but I can still seek out a quiet corner for a bit of Advent. If I find the sparkle, great.  If I don’t, that’s okay too.  I can search for God and Christ in the quiet.

–SueBE

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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