December 2

Praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his host!

Praise the LORD from the earth,
you sea monsters and all deeps,
fire and hail, snow and frost,
stormy wind fulfilling his command!

Mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars!
Wild animals and all cattle,
creeping things and flying birds!

Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his glory is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people,
praise for all his faithful,
for the people of Israel who are close to him.
Praise the LORD!

--Psalm 148:1-2, 7-10, 13-14 (NRSV)

When I was a child, and probably to this day, my mother kept a box of gifts in the basement of our house. Some of these were small trinkets that could be grabbed for a surprise invitation. Other gifts were picked up throughout the year with specific people in mind for birthdays or for Christmas. I'm not really organized enough to have a box, but I did buy my first Christmas present the other day. It's only September. And, while, I grumble and groan about the holiday paraphernalia lining the shelves before summer is even over, I am beginning to see the value in preparing and planning ahead. Which might explain why I have come to love Advent.

The gift that we receive at Christmas is obvious and glorious – the baby boy born to Mary and Joseph will go on to be the Savior of the world. But the gift that we receive in Advent is a little less flashy, perhaps less dramatic. During the weeks of Advent we are given the opportunity to prepare for the birth of that Savior. These four weeks that we spend draping our spaces in blue provide moments and time for reflection. These are busy weeks, no doubt about it. We rehearse for the pageant and we go caroling and we finish our shopping. We decorate our homes and we serve dinner at the shelter and we address cards to people far away.

Easily enough we forget why we do all of these things and just want the whole thing to be over. When it's January, I think, then I can rest. Psalm 148 calls on all creatures to praise the Lord – earth and sea and sky and all critters that inhabit those places. We go to great lengths to ready ourselves for the glorious birth of Christ, preparing so that we might receive and praise the baby boy. In scurrying about we might grumble and think that it's a whole lot of hoopla for the event of Christmas. However, our hurrying and scurrying is also praising God. We praise the Lord with our whole, in-progress beings.
I love Advent as much for the event that it prepares me for as for the preparation itself.

Writers and painters and artists of all kind talk about the process of creating being just as much art as the finished piece. All of our preparations are just as much praise as the one service of worship and celebration for the birth. We show our love for children not only by welcoming them into the world, but by getting ready for them, too –creating a place in our hearts and homes and lives, a process that takes months, sometimes years.

Advent allows us space for the process of getting ready for Jesus. We sing our praises for God's commanding presence and for the love that God shows to us. During Advent we do what we do to re-order our lives and make a place for Jesus. Clearly we should do this all year–a little bit at a time, constantly reminding ourselves of Jesus' presence in our lives.

And yet, before we make excuses or feel bad and guilty about why we don't always remember Jesus' presence, this season of blue cloths on the altar allows us to start anew. During these four short weeks we reflect on the ways that God has been present with us in the past year–at the birth of a child, at the death of a friend, when the wind and the water whipped too close, in the quiet drive home. We also can pray and hope for the ways that we want God to be present in the coming year–in the rebuilding of a relationship, in the anticipation of a move, in the discernment of a call. We can accept God's presence in our lives for the gift that it is–praising God with all of our being.

During Advent we hear Mary's song and about John the Baptizer, with his wilderness living. With the young girl and the mountain man, we praise God. With the coming of the snow or the warming of the earth, we praise the Lord. With the creatures and the earth, we praise God. With the rest of the world, we prepare for Christmas and praise the Lord.

Lord of All, I give thanks for the chance to prepare for the birth of Jesus. Be with me as I ready my heart and my home, as I reflect on what it means to give praise to you, and as I rejoice that you are always in my life. Amen.

--Pink Shoes in the Pulpit


Blogger J.M. Manzano said...

Thanks for that touching reflection. You are indeed a lover of Advent, no doubt it is so much reflected in your anticipation. Human as I am, I too often forget the meaning underlying all the Christmas events, and reading your refelction reminded me of it so well. Advent season is the great anticipation, I know I will never be able to fully prepare myself but I am assured that each step along the way is purifying, eewarding, illuminating and consciousness-expanding.

Let me share also Pope Benedict's own reflection inviting us to look at Advent as a season of Silence, Wakefulness and Prayer. Which are very much going with the tune of what you have already brought to light.

Silence: Amidst the maddening internal and external noise around us, we can still hear the footsteps of Jesus in the silent biddings of our heart. Just like the two blind men in yesterday's Gospel reading who followed Jesus in silence and trailing His path without seeing Him. They found Jesus.

Wakefulness: Because Jesus comes to us when we least expect Him, we need to become vigilant not so much toward the big events but toward the subtle little things that ironically can bring enormous change in us.

Prayer: This Advent is a season not only of merry-making or of decorating our homes with frills, but most of all, a season of quiet prayer where God meets us for who and what we are. In prayer God meets us in our own terms without embellishment, without masks. And to realize and to accept that God loves us just as that is the greatest gift He can ever give us.

Again, thanks and God bless!


10:24 PM  

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