Earlier this week, getting dressed for work with the Today show on in the background, I heard someone crooning "Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright." My kneejerk reaction was, “No! Not yet! We have a few more weeks to go!”
If that isn’t bad enough, our inboxes are stuffed with Cyber-this and Cyber-that “offers.” And, making an online contribution to a deserving non-profit will likely lead to a dozen or more additional giving opportunities appearing within a just a few hours.
It is only in the secular world that the Christmas season begins weeks before December 25 (Costco had its Christmas display up in late September!) In the Christian calendar, the Christmas season does not begin until December 25th and lasts until January 6 (Epiphany) – thus, the twelve days of Christmas. Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, not the celebration of it. Just as the Lenten journey prepares us for Easter, Advent’s somber journey prepares us for Christmas. Advent is just as different from Christmas as is Lent from Easter.
How are practicing Christians to observe this season, which is described by some as a time of penitence, others as a time of darkness, and others, as a time of hope? I am drawn to the image of Advent as a time of possibility. I’m not talking about the notion of our living up to our full potential (though that may not be such a bad concept). Rather, that through God, all things are possible. A quick look at some favorite Biblical heroes illustrates how God achieved great things through ordinary and often unlikely people. Of those heroes, Mary, a young Jewish girl from a small town far away from the seat of power in the Roman Empire, stands out as a shining example of what God can make possible.
If God can use a young, ordinary person in such a way, it means that God might be able to use us, as inadequate and often foolish as we can be. It means that we should never put limits on what God can do with even the humblest of things, the most ordinary people in perhaps the least likely circumstances.
In the spirit of possibility, this Sunday’s “Advent Lessons and Carols” service at 4:00 p.m. will take time to thoughtfully reflect, through word and music, on this Advent journey. Starting with Adam and Eve’s fall from grace (two ordinary people!) and exploring God’s covenants, Isaiah and Micah’s visions, and John’s proclamation. When, near the end of the service, we encounter the young, ordinary Mary, we realize that nothing is impossible with God.
May your Advent be filled with possibilities.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26