Walking Our Faith: When days are dark, where will we find respit?
November 23, 2018
I can't help myself. I put up my Christmas tree a week before Thanksgiving. I decorated it with my favorite shiny ornaments, turned on the lights and hung three stockings on the mantle. While I was decorating the tree I played Christmas songs and sang along.
Maybe I'm feeling particularly nostalgic this year, but I am brimming with excitement to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and I plan to celebrate it for the entire month of December.
Generally the next four Sundays are called Advent and they are a time of anticipation, waiting in the darkness for the Light that will guide the entire world, the birth of the newborn King, the light that the Gospel of John spoke of, that was with God at the time of creation and was God, and is within the mystery of the trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
It is reviewing the circumstances that caused God to become man and walk among us, not as a ruler, not as a mythical being, but simply as a man from the working class poor who would teach us what it means to live humbly with wisdom, but most of all with a heart full of love for those around us regardless of their station in life.
You just have to believe light always overcomes darkness, that love always overcomes sadness and anger, and that we each are so much stronger than we know.
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I believe this birth is the most significant event in the history of humanity, I believe it changed history for the better.
Over the next four weeks we'll walk through Advent together, walking through days that grow shorter and darker. But as we do, I want us to think about how we could make this year's Advent different than any we have celebrated before.
You are probably familiar with the Advent calendar in which each of the days of December are marked by receiving a small gift, like a piece of candy. I want to flip that this year. Instead of receiving something for the twenty-five days leading up to Christmas, I want to encourage you to give something.
It doesn't have to be of monetary value, I think the most meaningful gift you could give over the next twenty-five days would be some small act of kindness. A patient listen to someone who's having a bad day, looking someone in the eyes and saying thank you, acknowledging the work of so many people who make our community a welcoming place to visit and live.
For the next twenty-five days I'm going to step up my knitting game, with help from the ladies of the prayer shawl knitting group that meets every Wednesday at the Next Page Books and Nosh. Instead of giving away one scarf a week as I have been this winter, for the twenty-five days of Christmas I am going to give twenty-five scarves wrapped around twenty-five books of mine. I'm going to do it as I have, anonymously placing them around town.
I hope they will reach people who need them most in that moment. Perhaps it won't be someone needs a scarf, but someone who is lonely or sad and maybe finding the scarf or book will remind that there are no coincidences in life and that they are loved. I know this is a difficult time of year for many people and maybe that's what we should remember over the next twenty-five days of Advent.
I believe it is not enough to know the story of Jesus Christ's birth, after all whether religious or not, it's an event acknowledged throughout the world. I think our challenge is not to know the story, but to live the story.
As we walk through the darkness of the next twenty-five days, perhaps we can be the light that anticipates the coming of the greatest Light of the world. Perhaps we can be his small candles in the darkness. We can light the way to his arrival, sharing his life through our small acts of kindness.
You don't have to be a Christian to participate in the twenty-five days of Advent. You don't even have to believe in God. You just have to believe light always overcomes darkness, that love always overcomes sadness and anger, and that we each are so much stronger than we know.
What if you are the one who needs to feel loved this year? What if the dark days feel especially dark for you? What if it feels as if there isn't enough for you, not love, not finances, not joy?
First, if you are living with depression, I encourage you to contact Building Hope (BuildingHopeSummit.org). Second, I encourage you to find a church community where you feel comfortable. Surrounding yourself with a caring community is essential at this time of year. And third, I invite you to participate in this kindness project. Speaking from my own history of depression, when I am most in despair but gather the energy to extend love to someone else, my loneliness, my sense of isolation, decreases.
When we give our love away, we not only make the lives of others better, we also strengthen ourselves. For the twenty-five days of December, let's celebrate the birthday of the Son of God who was born on a dark night in a stall for animals, the humblest beginning for the greatest Light. Over the next four weeks let's reflect that light into the world, let's joyfully share our love. Will you join me?
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge.
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