Put Out the Welcome Mat!

Otto Herschel, Wikipedia Commons Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Otto Herschel, Wikipedia Commons
Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse-Rabbi Reading the Torah

 

“I am coming to dwell among you.”
Zechariah 2, 14

Last week we had guests for dinner–good friends we hadn’t seen in a while thanks to those daily life events that sometimes get in the way of what we would like.

The morning of their visit, I took on the tasks of spiffing up the house while David got to work on the special meal he had planned a few days ahead of time. He’d spent an afternoon shopping at a few stores to assure he had just the right ingredients and found recipes even though his culinary genius would kick in and improve upon them. I kept busy, too, most of the day, filling in as sous-chef in between my domestic duties. We wanted everything to be just perfect, especially since our friend, Patty, is also a gourmet cook.

“So what?” you may be thinking. It’s no less than what most folks would do.

That evening, after our friends had left and most of the dishes had been done, we went, as is our practice during Advent, to light the candles on our Advent wreath and to read a short meditation from a little publication, “The Word Among Us,” that is based on the scripture for the following day’s liturgy. And, as you no doubt have guessed by now, that wonderful promise from the prophet Zechariah was the verse the editors chose for us to reflect upon.

The parallel is obvious, isn’t it? If David and I could do so much to welcome these dear friends, to prepare with care for their visit, shouldn’t we do more to welcome Jesus into our lives? One big difference stands out to me. Yes, we are celebrating the coming of God’s Son into our world when we prepare for Christmas but HE’S ALREADY HERE. And He didn’t come just for an evening of good food, some wine and conversations. He has come to STAY. And He has come to offer us the feast of Himself.

So, I have to ask myself, what do I do on a daily basis to welcome Him, to be aware of His dwelling in me? Is my Advent preparation confined to shopping for presents and wrapping them, sending out Christmas cards, and baking goodies? What else can I do? Perhaps, it’s in taking some time each morning to pray that we will find the answer to those questions.

In case you are wondering, our evening was perfect, fun. The dinner was scrumptious and conversation flowed. But it was over so quickly, just like our celebration each year of Christmas.

Blessed Advent!

Photo: Wikipedia Commons--Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

Photo: Wikipedia Commons–Labeled for Non-Commercial Reuse

 

 

Advent is My Favorite Time of Year

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial reuse

Photo: Labeled for non-commercial reuse

Christmas Advent is My Favorite Time of Year

(Flash Fiction)

Amy waited, none-too-patiently, in the interminable line at Walmart, drumming slender fingers on the handle of her cart, wondering what the hold-up was and questioning the wisdom of attempting to shop the day after Thanksgiving. Especially since she abhorred the commercialism of the season, not to mention, she wasn’t at all fond of crowds.

She ignored the queue forming behind her, and a glance to the left and right informed her that it was the same throughout the store. Impatient customers sighed, complained and even argued about who got to the checkout counter first.

The teenager manning the cash registered wore a Santa Cap and, incongruously, a scowl. Frustration oozed throughout the crowd. The cart behind her was loaded, Amy could tell without turning around, and she thanked her lucky stars that she had gotten there before whoever wielded that wobbly thing on non-compliant wheels.

A small voice, almost a whisper, spoke to her. Turning she saw a wizened little lady who had to be in her 80’s, if not her 90’s.

“I’m sorry,” Amy said. “Were you speaking to me?”

“Yes,” the elderly patron said. “I just said that December isn’t like it used to be. In my day, Advent came before Christmas, we gave up candy like we did for Lent. We prayed together, waited for the Wonder that was to come. Gifts just weren’t that important.”

Amy nodded, waited for the woman to go on.

A younger voice, a man, from an adjacent line joined in. “That’s how my mother made us prepare for Christmas, too. It was about what was to come. I don’t know, but for me, that made the anticipation all the more exciting, and Christmas day, we couldn’t think of even looking under the tree before Church.”

The conversation continued and Amy mostly listened, adding only a few “I see’s.” The overhead speakers blasted songs totally devoid of anything suggestive of the spiritual meaning of the holiday, more often chanting masked messages of “gimme, gimme, gimme.”

Amy became strangely aware of the emptiness of her own life. These two people had an entirely different perspective from her own. She told herself she would try to learn more about what made Advent, waiting so special to some people. After all, she was alone in this city. Her boyfriend had dumped her a month ago and it wasn’t that easy for her to make new friends.

She surprised herself when she reached the check stand. Those last few minutes in line had slipped by so quickly. When she was next-in-line she did something a little crazy—she stepped behind the lady with the cart loaded with children’s toys. She could see her wise teacher was exhausted and a little wobbly after standing for so long.

When her new friend thanked her, she said, “I can see you wondering why I have all these toys. Oh, they’re not for my grandchildren—I have none. They’re for the collection the Marines are taking up for homeless children. You see, that’s how I celebrate the birth of Jesus now that I’m alone. His coming was all about love and…well, I’m sure you understand.”

Amy realized that she wanted to do just that.

Photo: V. Slotto, 2014

Photo: V. Slotto, 2014

The Challenge of Light

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.

Photo: Victoria Slotto

Photo: Victoria Slotto

The Challenge of Light

i.
advent is not about the coming
of a sweet baby.
it is not about sentimental,
trumped-up emotion.
advent challenges us
to an adult acceptance
of the kingdom of god,
to social imperatives,
to self-forgetfulness,
to letting go,
to a deliberate emptiness.

ii.
we like to make the Christ
into a perpetual baby.
we can cuddle a baby,
a baby asks nothing of us.
the Christ is so much more demanding.

iii.
advent doesn’t just happen
the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
our lives our one huge advent.
our lives are about bringing light
into this dark world.

iv.
in advent and winter we wait for light.
do we forget it’s up to us
to be light in the darkness
of a world that is
confused
stumbling
blinded
afraid?

v.
it’s easy to get hung up
in religion,
in practice,
in institutional think.
it’s easy to feel complacent
because we go to church,
because we give money.
the litmus test
is giving of ourselves,
is embracing mystery.
advent is not just a passive waiting.
it allows that we are responsible
to be light-bearers.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner!

Here I stand, knocking at the door.
If anyone hears me calling and opens the door,
I will enter his house and have supper with him,
and he with me.

Revelation 3: 20 (NAB)

Photo: icraftblog.blogspot.com

Photo: icraftblog.blogspot.com

Advent is here–a time of waiting, of anticipation for the coming of God-with-us, Emmanuel. I have always relished this season of the liturgical cycle and embrace it as characterizing my own personal spirituality–that sense of emptiness waiting for completion.

Right now, I’m muddling my way through the book of Revelation, the apocalyptic book that is the least read and least understood book of the New Testament. This morning I read Chapter Three and the thought occurred to me–what use is study if it’s purpose is anything but to bring us into communion with Christ.

And what better verse to savor, to sit back and absorb, than the one above–one of the few from this book that has held meaning for me in the past. For me, today, on this Sabbath, this is an invitation to remember the presence of God in whatever I do. God was with/in me as ate breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, checked e-mail, cared for the dogs. Here he is, now, as I write this post. (Actually his Spirit is the inspiration behind it.)

In my prayer, I’ve never been good at the type of meditation recommended by St. Ignatius Loyola where he has you plop yourself down in the middle of a gospel scene and allow your senses to experience everything going on in it. Just not my style, though many find it helpful. But today, it is making a lot of sense to me to visualize him here with me, leaning over my shoulder as I write. Hmmm! I wonder if he would enjoy watching a little football later today.

Isn’t Advent about just this? The coming of God in our midst–Jesus’ willingness to take on humanity and experience that which we experience–physically, emotionally, and intellectually?

I wish you a blessed Advent. Let’s invite Emmanuel in to share everything. Everything.

Photo: Victoria Slotto Our Advent Wreath 2014

Photo: Victoria Slotto
Our Advent Wreath, 2014