Pastor’s Pondering

Advent is perhaps one of the most misunderstood seasons in the church year. We meet it every year, and yet every year it seems like the world around us rolls strait from Thanksgiving to Christmas. There is no waiting, we move strait to the joy and the celebration. Of course this makes total sense. Christmas songs, movies, and traditions can bring light and cheer to our lives. I am certainly no Christmas Grinch; my spouse has to remind me constantly that Christmas songs belong after Thanksgiving, not before. Christmas is about the arrival of God among us, it is about celebration, hope, and joy. Advent is about waiting. One of those certainly sounds a lot more fun than the other. But Advent is what grounds Christmas in reality. Because the truth is that in many moments in our lives we are waiting. We are waiting for hope in a world that often feels full of uncertainty. We are waiting for love in places where we carry hurt and shame. We are waiting for our world to reflect God’s dreams, for it to be a place of safety, freedom, peace, and justice for all. Advent meets us where we are, in the midst of the darkness and in the midst of the waiting, and reminds us that waiting is not a barrier to God. It reminds us that God acts in the midst of waiting, in the mist of the mess and the broken. It reminds us that we look not for a big, triumphant flourish of light and hope that will neatly wrap all our problems up with a bow. Instead we look for the little signs of love and peace, we look for the tiny baby born, a sign that at first glace looks like nothing out of the ordinary but is a truly extra ordinary sign of God’s tender love among us.

In the book “Home for Christmas: Tales of Hope and Second Chances”, Gregory Boyle writes, “Advent is about trading in the vindictive, disapproving God for the God who loves us without measure and without regret. This God does not share in the demonizing in which we all engage. This God shuns no one, ever, no exceptions. Advent is about allowing ourselves to be reached by the tenderness of God and then choosing to be that tenderness in the world.” This Advent we wait once again. Waiting is a kind of holy slowing down. It’s a way of seeing the ways we yearn for tenderness, for the kind of love that truly is unconditional. It’s a way of seeing the ways we miss the mark, slowing down in our thoughts long enough to catch the judgments we make without even noticing. And it’s a way of slowing down so that we can practice tenderness to those around us. How can you engage in this time of holy slow down in a season that is often so busy? Maybe that looks like inviting someone who might be lonely over for dinner or coffee. Maybe that looks like taking the time to notice God in the faces of those you walk past in the store. Maybe that looks like taking a few minutes each morning in silent prayer, not speaking but just sitting aware of God’s presence. When we take the time to slow down and wait we begin to see the extraordinary in our everyday, the signs that what we celebrate at Christmas is still true today: God’s tender love is here with each of us in each and every moment of our lives.

-Pastor Chelsea

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