Sunday, December 8, 2019

Advent, what's that?!?

Image result for advent wreath

This week the focus is on spiritual health.

Today marks the second Sunday in Advent. As I sat in church this morning, I thought about all the things I have yet to do before Dec 25--buy gifts for family, colleagues and friends (should residents buy attendings a small gift during outpatient year?),  get a Christmas tree, and haul out the outdoor decorations so I don't feel like Ebenezer Scrooge every time I drive into my cul de sac where my neighbors' homes were already completely decorated by the day after Thanksgiving.

However, this morning as I sat in the quiet, holy space of a small  Reno congregation, I was struck by how easy it is, even for a priest, to get caught up in a secularly catalyzed "to do" list. It is so easy for December to be a month of buying, parties, activity and even competition, and forget that as followers of Christ we are called to be preparing in a different, or at least in an additional way.

The Christian calendar marks the four Sundays before Christmas as the four Sundays of Advent. The word advent is from the Latin word that means "coming". It is a time when people who seek to follow Christ are to prepare. We are to prepare ourselves for the upcoming joyous celebration of Christ's birth on Christmas day, as well as for the final coming of Christ in "power and glory." Each of the Sundays of Advent focus on a different theme.

This morning in church we prayed the following prayer (from the Book of Common Prayer):

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

In a season when we are bombarded with secular messages to prepare for the winter holidays, this prayer is a reminder to prepare in a different way. It asks us to prepare for the coming of Christ by looking at ourselves and the ways we have fallen short. And who among us doesn't have something in their life that they feel ashamed about, something they wish that they were doing differently, and/or an "I'm sorry" that needs to be said? 

Making amends for the ways we fall short (sin) is quite contrary to all that we see around us in the weeks that lead up to Christmas. But think about it. How much more authentically joyful will the celebration of Christ's birth be if you prepare yourself in addition to all of the external preparations over the next few weeks? 

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