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  • Seasons of the Spirit: An Advent Reflection

    star_13150bcAdvent is a time in which we are invited to anticipate and prepare for the One who offers us a new perspective on life, a new way of being. We are to prepare our hearts and lives to make room for the One who is coming on our own behalf, to restore us to Love. Traditionally Advent was a deeply spiritual time in which the soul longed and waited for God’s coming into the world. Often for us, in our 21st Century world, it is a time of frenzy, hurry, and unrealistic expectation of others and ourselves. Can we as a community of faith encourage each other to take time to ponder and pray, to wait and watch for the ways Christ may be coming into our lives in unique, unexpected, and surprising ways?

    It is important for us to remember that Jesus came into a world in which there was no room for him, no welcome at the inn. Jesus entered life out behind where the action was, in the shadow of the inn. His bed was an animal food trough, and the heat of the bodies of animals kept him warm. “The Word made flesh, unable to speak a word.” God needing us to offer a place where he could be safely loved.

    How do we usually think of God entering our lives? With a blast of thunder, the blare of trumpets, the blaze of glory? Amazingly, Jesus comes to us as one who is completely vulnerable and receptive, an infant in need of our love and care. Will we offer to hold him this Christmas? Will we make room for the quiet and comforting time that babies need, the invitation an infant offers to be entirely in the present moment? Will we let this experience free us from the “tyranny of tense” (past or future) and offer us a glimpse of the “eternal now”? Will we let God turn our days from places of doing more and more into days of living fully and offering more love, compassion, care, and gratitude in our connections and interactions?

    Perhaps one of the points of Advent’s waiting is to let go of our attempt to control and orchestrate everything. Dare we move from the “perfect” Christmas to one in which God comes unexpected? The very cracks in our perfectly controlled Christmas become opportunities for God to show us a new way. A life in which love takes the place of force, connection triumphs over “being right at all costs,” and less activity actually makes our lives richer and deeper.

    This Advent, may we ponder the bright star that points us to the most unlikely place where “once for a shining moment, heaven touched earth.” May we rejoice together at the One who comes on our behalf. May God guide us to a Christmas of love, full of kindness, compassion, and hope springing from the people. places, and events to which we open ourselves, trusting God’s Spirit to guide us to our own Bethlehem!

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, The First Congregational Church in Winchester, UCC; Healing Worship Minister, The Old South Church in Boston, UCC