I preached an Advent sermon at our worship services yesterday. Not sure how it impacted the hearers, but I know that it impacted the preacher! It was a sermon about not wasting this extraordinary season which calls us NOT TO RUSH to Christmas, but instead to embrace the coming weeks as a time of waiting, prayer and pondering the great event which is coming, but is not yet! I invited the congregation to join me in being like Mary the Mother of Jesus in the days before her Son’s birth — to be “pregnant with holy anticipation”.
If we are to embrace Advent’s call, we need to dial things back and to quiet things down. So following a nice, quiet lunch and an equally nice, quiet nap after services yesterday, Philip and I found ourselves dialed back and quieted down as we read side by side — he with his newspaper and me with my Christian journals. There were moments when Philip broke the silence by reading to me about Saturday’s football game when Auburn ran for 108 yards in the last SECOND to beat Alabama in the craziest finish in the history of college football. It was a sweet, sweet time — and I don’t even like football! But I like quiet moments with my Prince Philip and I sure like watching his face light up as he shares something that thrills him and I feel delight because of his delight.
Are these the sweet gifts of Advent?
Advent is the season when the culture around us is rushing to Christmas. Rushing to shop for decorations, party clothes, and gifts, gifts, and more gifts. We risk spending so much time (and money) on Christmas gifts, that we may miss the sweet gifts that Advent brings.
Advent gifts are not bought with money or credit cards. Advent gifts are bought with time spent in the presence of our Lord in prayer and quiet reflection and in the sweet fellowship of those we love and those we serve. And Advent gifts are not made with human hands. Advent gifts are made by God’s love and grace just as His greatest Gift was given freely to us, an expression of His love and grace. It is the Gift we could not make, earn, or merit — the Gift of God’s Own Son Jesus Christ.
In those weeks preceeding the birth of her first Son, Mary, our Lord’s mother, waited – pregnant with holy anticipation. I like to imagine her in this late stage of pregnancy … growing larger as the Blessed Baby within her grew. The heavy weight of pregnancy would have affected her and even her very young body would have been forced to slow down. I like to think of her quiet preparation for the long 8 – 10 day journey she would make over some 100 miles with her betrothed Joseph, as they traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem, slowly but surely making their way to the place that Jesus would be born — in the hay and under a Star.
What prayers did she pray as she waited? What quiet whispers did she offer to God as she packed for her journey? What thoughts did she and Joseph share in those days together as they traveled many miles side by side? What were their hopes? What were their fears? What were the joyful moments? What were the hard ones? What were her sweet Advent gifts?
I preached yesterday that it has been said that, “The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. And Advent is the name of that moment.” I believe God gave Mary and Joseph an extraordinary Advent — that the days and weeks before the birth of the Christ-child were not wasted on rushing about here and there. They were not lost in the maze of hurried, everyday life.
Instead, their Advent was spent quietly and purposefully moving toward the great event which was set before them. Their focus was clear, their steps were intentional, but their pace was slowed by the weight of glory which they bore.
I want to be like Mary and Joseph this Advent. I want to receive the Advent gifts that God sets before me as I seek Him in quiet reflection. I don’t want to be so focused on Christmas gifts that I miss the sweet Advent gifts that come as I move with quiet and purposeful steps, ever closer to the great event which is coming, but is not yet. I want my focus to be clear and my steps to be intentional. I want my pace to be slowed by the weight of glory which I bear. You see, like Mary, I am pregnant with holy anticipation — My Lord, He is coming soon.
May the sweet gifts of Advent be yours in this extraordinary season, Dear Ones! AND FOR THOSE WHO WANT THEIR OWN COPY, click on: Advent Version of the 23rd PSALM. It was offered as a handout from yesterday’s sermon. I commend it to you!
After more than 25 years in parish ministry, Rev. Cathie retired in early 2018 to pursue a quieter life with her husband Philip in the mountains of Central Oregon. Although no longer a leader in congregational life, she continues to follow her calling and passion to minister to those who suffer, especially those with cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.