All Saints Episcopal Church, Hilton Head Island, SC
December 1, 2005
There seems to be a great deal of confusion about the season of Advent. The world at large, better known as the secular world, sees the season preceding Christmas as beginning before Thanksgiving and increasingly as a season marked by all that is outward and visible (to be read as "all that is available to purchase") to celebrate a particular day of the year. The reason for this celebration is not articulated, except for certain visual aids that get us into the spirit of giving: presents, Santa Claus, evergreen trees, snow, model trains, homes aglow with lights and festive decorations, and of course, appropriate music.
Advent is about preparation for the Incarnation of the Word made flesh. It is the inward and spiritual that runs headlong into society's unmerciful march to Christmas. We understand and embrace the outward preparations, but at times these can be overwhelming and often counter to the meaning of Christmas.
Jane and I have reached a point in our life together where we appreciate worship that speaks of the Incarnation, in addition to our family, if possible, sharing the spirit of Christmas at home. It is exciting to open presents and to see joy on the faces of those we love. But at this stage in our lives, we are now looking to give in different ways to our children and friends that is not necessarily how the world views Christmas or the preparations leading up to that day.
We are in conversations together and with our children that focus on giving in ways that bring the light of Christ to others. We are talking and making decisions that place our lives closer to deeper desires within us that we believe speak and respond to Christ in our lives. We believe that Christ is the Prince of Peace and the author of our salvation; we hope in some ways to respond to that reality in the world about us. All presents need not be wrapped or found in a store or mail-order catalogue. Are there ways in which we can give from the heart, out of faith, that speaks of Christ offered to the world? What can we give that is ours truly to give and is an expression of joy and hope that Christ offers?
We are still going to give gifts but hopefully with a different mindset that befits the season of Advent as one of preparation (read as thoughtfulness, prayer, and reflection) and the reality that our faith is convinced that God, in infinite wisdom, has shared not only His WORD with humanity but His Incarnate WORD in the context of human history. It is a unique mystery that the human and the divine find common ground in the Christ child in a manger in Bethlehem. All that glitters is not altogether the meaning of Christmas. We may discover in Advent those simple gifts that come from the heart and which represent a deep expression of love that takes us to new places.
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