Welcoming my young friend, Jaime, today. Her words are wise beyond her years and her heart is always open to take in one more soul. Thanks, Jaime, for sharing Advent with us.
Advent. It’s that beautiful part of life where the world shines and sparkles and everything is decorated. Well, usually.
A few years ago I was responsible for programs and activities at a sort of drop-in cafe for homeless and semi-sheltered folks. We had Sunday services, holiday programs, game nights, movie nights–it was a lot of fun. So when the air began to cool–just kidding, I was in Florida. So when my northern friends began to post pictures of changing leaves, it was time to think about Christmas.
I have always loved the idea of actually celebrating advent. I thought it would be beautiful to empty our little cafe of all that was in there except for tables and chairs and to set up a simple wreath and candles. (I snuck in a few holiday scented plugins, too.)
We had no decorations, and this aggravated some of the volunteers. One woman, in particular, took upon herself to donate her old Christmas tree and set it up where I stood to preach. This tree represented the exact reasoning behind our scarcity.
We did not have a lot of money for decorations and I realized that, advent? It’s about waiting. It is about anticipating. It is about hunkering down in all your excitement and watching for the Messiah to show up. It’s not about garland and trees–it’s about peace and joy and hope.
That tree that was snuck in was moved slightly and kept up as a reminder of all our distractions. That tree barely lit up, had broken branches, no stand–it was kind of an insult to give to folks to use. But it showed us that our own brokenness is a distraction from what that little baby, born in Bethlehem, came to do.
In our little cafe we sang and celebrated, we waited together, we joined for meals and movies and people began to search was of gifting others. There was kindness and joy that outweighed the sadness and pain that advent season. The holiday wasn’t a reminder to my friends that their families no longer wanted them, that they were too far gone from love and grace. That year, Jesus reminded us that in the simplicity of a candle we can be a little brighter, a little warmer, a little lovelier.
On Christmas morning we had a feast of biscuits and gravy and gifts to remind us we are loved. And the rest of the decorations were added to that empty, decorationless room.
A small nativity scene was placed on another table, next to our advent wreath. And on that morning there was no denying the presence of our Messiah, Emmanuel had come and been among us.
That Advent we watched and we waited; we enjoyed a taste of anticipation. We stirred ourselves up in excitement and looked for the moving of the spirit. We searched for the proof of His coming–and we saw it. We felt it. We experienced it.
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel…