December

 
Growing up, Advent was always a very special time of year for me. My family’s preparation began when we would go on the day after Thanksgiving to pick out a live Christmas tree for our living room. We would always put it in front of the large picture window, so that the lights could be seen from outside. We’d pull out our boxes of ornaments and decorate the tree while singing our favorite Advent and Christmas hymns. Then, once Advent began, we would find our Advent calendar and count down the days until Christmas, each day uncovering a bit more of the Christmas story. My favorite tradition, though, was going to church on Christmas Eve, where we lit candles and sang “Silent Night.” I’m sure that many of you have had similar traditions over the years. Our traditions are important, because they help us to connect with our past, make sense of our present, and envision a hopeful future. I love Advent, because it gives us the opportunity to slow down, to center ourselves, and to focus on the core tenets of hope, peace, joy, and love that lie at the heart of our faith. As we begin to draw closer to the holy night that changed the world, the following poem from Celtic spiritualist John Phillip Newell’s Sounds of the Eternal: A Celtic Psalter speaks to me:

 

In the silence of the morning

I am alive to the new day’s light,

alert to the early stirrings of the wind

and the first sounds of the creatures.

In the silence of my heart

I hear the yearnings that are in me and the fears,

the hopes that rise from within

and the doubts that trouble my soul.

In the beginnings of this day, O God,

before the night’s stillness is lost to the day’s busyness, open to me the treasure of my inner being

that in the midst of this day’s busyness I may draw on wisdom.

Assure me again of my origins in you,

assure me again that my true depths are of you.

 

This season is a time of stillness, a time of preparation, in which we learn the value of hope, before going about the busyness of working for change. It is a time to remember that we belong to God. It is a beginning, a fresh start, as we begin a new church year and think about all of the wonderful work that University Christian Church is going to do in 2016. This season is a reminder that God changes things. Just as God changed the world by sending a small child that upset the status quo, God is still at work in our world. We desperately need to hear the message of hope, peace, joy, and love anew. May the joy of this season, not be forgotten in the new year, but rather serve as a springboard for us to be the hands and feet of Christ and to share the Good News.

 

Peace and Love,

Caleb