Contributed by Patti Stratton. This is the first in a series of blog posts for Advent. Scripture readings for the first Sunday of Advent are Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44.
Advent! That time of year we frantically “wait” for Christmas, right? If we’re honest, we might realize we’re finding ourselves doing everything but waiting! The beginning of Advent marks the beginning of the race against the calendar to complete all the Christmas celebration preparation: buying and wrapping gifts, addressing and sending Christmas greetings, getting everyone together and dressed in coordinating colors for the yearly family photo, decorating, baking, preparing Christmas dinner menus, and shopping. Add to this those of us who aspire to be “little Martha Stewarts” by hand-crafting items for the season! Blend in those of us who are students—writing papers, preparing projects, and studying for final exams that all come due exactly at this time of year. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely that you’re also involved in ministry which means preparing for special services, adding seasonal elements to regular services, rehearsing Christmas pageants and cantatas, looking for new or innovative ways to tell the Christmas story in sermons, Sunday School lessons, and small group settings. Whew…I’m exhausted just writing about it all!
What say we do something entirely different this year? What if we decide right now, at the beginning of this Advent season, to “peacefully” wait… to prepare our hearts and our homes, our families, and our churches for the coming of the Christ Child, the coming of the Kingdom of God, and to truly experience God’s intended shalom/peace?
I’m a wife, a mom, a sister, a daughter, a pastor’s spouse, and a pastor myself. I feel all the same pressures as you. And yet I’m sensing there’s something special I have been missing. Practically speaking, there are preparations to be made—but what if I make them all more about Jesus? I’m praying about what I might give as gifts: Maybe Mom doesn’t need another bottle of her favorite perfume. Maybe she’d be pleased to know I gave a gift to the Women and Girls Mission Fund* in her honor, instead. After all, she encouraged me to be who I am. I think she would be happy to know her gift would help other women and girls to become all God intend them to be.
Do you know what shalom means? It is a wholeness, a completeness in all aspects of life, for us as individuals, within society, and for the whole world. Imagine your home as an oasis of shalom, a place where the frenzy of the season disappears. Give yourself permission to be minimalist in décor and preparation, and invite your family and friends to do the same. Then take the time that you’ve now found—time not engaged in the frenzy—to simply be together, loving one another, singing and talking together, and enjoying the blessing of life.
Yep, this is what I’m going to do. And I invite you to join me. Talk about it with family and friends. Share this idea with your congregation. Invite them to join you. Stop, take a deep breath, center your focus on the coming of the Christ Child; and relax into the arms of shalom, content to wait, open to anticipate, and willing to be present…
Prayer: Our God of shalom, we seek wholeness in you during this Advent season. In the days and weeks ahead, help us to stay focused on the gift of your son in the form of the baby Jesus; may every holiday preparation we undertake be done in anticipation and joy. May your breath that formed the world breathe your peace into our lives, that we may be complete. In the name of the coming son we pray, Amen.
*Your gift to the Women and Girls Mission Fund helps American Baptist Women’s Ministries empower women and girls in the U.S. and around the world. Through Christ-centered ministries of discipleship, leadership development, educational opportunities, economic sustainability, and by addressing injustices such as gender violence and exploitation that oppress women and girls, the Women and Girls Mission Fund helps women and girls discover God’s full potential for their lives. For more information or to donate online, click here.