Be­yond hol­i­day buy­ing

Sea­son is time to stop, re­flect

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - RELIGION - SARA MIL­FORD The Rev. Sara Mil­ford serves as Vicar of All Saints’ Epis­co­pal Church/To­dos los San­tos Igle­sia Epis­co­pal in Ben­tonville and looks for­ward to hav­ing her four chil­dren all home for Christ­mas.

The siren call since the week be­fore Thanks­giv­ing beck­ons us to hurry and save on all our hol­i­day pur­chases, for surely there will be many. Jolly, sen­ti­men­tal car­ols play on the ra­dio and in stores, and the light-trimmed houses and build­ings il­lu­mi­nate the streets and town squares on these in­creas­ingly long, cold nights. Re­mind­ing us our time is run­ning out, a count­down to Dec. 25 lurks around ev­ery cor­ner — but what ex­actly are we pre­par­ing for and racing to­ward?

Our lives of faith are so char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally marked by a jour­ney, and the sea­son lead­ing to­ward Christ­mas is no ex­cep­tion. The sea­son of Ad­vent, how­ever, isn’t a race against the clock or other con­sumers; Ad­vent is a time to be present and aware in the dark­ness as we an­tic­i­pate the com­ing of the Light of the world. We open the lit­tle doors or flaps of our Ad­vent cal­en­dars one day at a time. We light the can­dles of our Ad­vent wreaths one per week and watch the flick­er­ing flame. We wait, and in the wait­ing, we lis­ten to the words of those who pro­claim what is to come — words from prophets fore­telling the birth of the Son of Man, words of hum­ble ser­vants mak­ing way for the will of God, and words of psalmists re­mind­ing us what joy and hap­pi­ness there is in con­tin­u­ing on this jour­ney of faith, de­spite what­ever tri­als or per­se­cu­tions arise.

In the wait­ing, too, we give our­selves time to pon­der what on earth this an­cient story has to do with our lives to­day. It’s a time to nest.

Mary, heavy with child, did what any wise soul would tell a mother not to do — go on long trip away from home. Typ­i­cally, the last weeks of a preg­nancy are marked by a time of nest­ing, of clean­ing and or­ga­niz­ing to get the home just so be­fore wel­com­ing the new­est mem­ber of the fam­ily. With our dec­o­ra­tions, cel­e­bra­tions and tra­di­tions, we are pre­par­ing our hearts and homes to re­ceive the gift of Christ, and it’s this gift that we an­tic­i­pate through­out the sea­son.

Tak­ing the time to slow down into a cen­tered­ness grounded in love and hope­ful ex­pec­ta­tion has a way of open­ing our hearts and minds to be present and aware. This non-anx­ious way of be­ing runs con­trary to the hus­tle and bus­tle we’re guided to­ward, but it is ex­actly the kind of pres­ence that helps us see how God breaks into our lives more than once a year. We need this time to pause, de­lib­er­ate and lis­ten so that we do not miss the guid­ing star and lose our­selves in mind­less, numb­ing con­sump­tion. Run­ning full steam ahead to­ward a day of ma­te­ri­al­is­tic hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions tends to set us up for dis­ap­point­ment, but Ad­vent in­vites us to pre­pare our­selves, to be fully present with one an­other, and to re­al­ize that what we re­ally need is both al­ready here and still yet to be.

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