As I began to write our customary Advent letter to the parish, it was Tuesday, November 24th and more restrictions just came down the pipe due to the second wave of Covid-19. One of those restrictions suggests pausing worship gatherings for a short while as we wait and see if new restrictive measures will begin to resolve the steep incline of cases.
This letter will be distributed before that information has been assessed, so it is impossible to speak to Christmas Eve worship plans at this time.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read comments on social media of late, about being done with 2020. Well in the church, Advent is the new year. And who isn’t ready for a new year about now??? Though by a new year, we don’t just mean 2021. We mean we want the pandemic to be over.
So as I think of what we hope for, and begin an Advent spiritual journey, I am feeling things that do speak to the light of the season, the showing of faith, and preparations for the Christ Child.
What I feel most is a radical paradigm shift away from what has dominated our culture (whether we participate or not) since Coke first put Santa in their red and white colours, and Sears made him all about wish lists. The paradigm (the way we think) shift is, not that we have wisely learned to be a less materialistic culture, or how fundamental that shift is to the environment, human justice issues, or world peace … but that it takes a pandemic to show us we are capable of change.
Isn’t that what motivated Jesus? He saw all the dark things about humanity and he also knew we were capable of change. That is really what most of our central beliefs are about. Resurrection: we can rise and become more. Repentance: we can see what is wrong and light up our passion to grow and do better. Forgiveness: we can awaken, and become what we’ve learned, and forgive others knowing they are becoming what they’ve learned and embraced.
At our core, as we approach Christmas we believe God not only loves us, but speaks to that inner part of us that evolves, changes, and becomes more full of light. And so, “God sent his son.”
We often talk about what we believe. But do you sometimes wonder what God believes?
God must believe in our transformative and evolving capacity for change. When we understand the way God believes in us … doesn’t that make you want to believe in us too? Knowing we are believed in like that?
So as we look around, over the next few weeks of Advent, I want to suggest a few spiritual exercises for all of us. When we see fewer people, and feel lonely, take time each time that happens to think of how connected we are on this planet. How many people are feeling the same way, from the neighbour, to the 7 billion other human beings who live here? We are sharing the struggles, loneliness, worries and the missing in a way none of us has ever shared an experience before. And we do it for each other. That is a truth that is full of light.
A second spiritual exercise can happen as we notice homes and telephone poles and fences and yards decorated and filling the night with colours and light and wish we could go Christmas caroling or attend gatherings like we normally would. Let that light coming from the house next door remind you that someone set those decorations up so their light would reach you. To me, that light represents the warmth and the presence people hope you can feel.
Put a light or candle in your window (or go whole hog on your front door, deck, and yard) just hoping your light will go to someone’s window, and they will feel warmth, presence and connection too. Full of light.
A third spiritual exercise could be about how we feel about not being able to “provide” the Christmas we used to. Perhaps our awareness of that change is an opportunity to have conversations about what Christmas is really about. With the little ones, we can change the focus to being a family, cooking, baking or making a snowman.
We can focus on whatever we want that puts so much more in Christmas than what is under the tree! We can put so much into this time. If we are simply a household of two, we can do all those things as well. Take times of quiet to appreciate that person who is sharing our life, and the miracle of the journey together (with all its ups and downs, mistakes, joys, and change). If we are a household of one, we can reach out to every single person we are missing, whether it’s the bridge group, the community volunteers we take action with, or family we can’t see. Just reach out, to everyone you pray for, think of and miss. Oh, and you can build a snowman too. If your body won’t cooperate with doing that, you can make a snowball. Especially if you know when the snowplow is coming (once that white stuff falls). Because what snowplow driver is going to get mad at an 80 year old grinning maniacally after a perfect hit, evidence still clinging to mittens she knitted herself?
And the fourth and last spiritual exercise I’d like to suggest is to have some mindfulness time each day. To think about how you and I can embrace the changes the pandemic brings, and find ways to spread Advent light, full of belief in the ability of humanity to change. Let us be part of how God creates love and light, no matter where and no matter what.
The Rev’d Mark Pretty
NOTE: . Anyone who is able and wishes to make a Christmas offering can do so by dropping it off to our Treasurer, Keith Fraser (93 Fraser Road) or mailing it to St. Andrew’s Church (2553 St. Margaret’s Bay Road, Timberlea, NS, B3T 1H1). Thank you for your continued support.