Advent is here and Christmas will be soon. The former prepares us for the latter.
The amazing thing about both are their capacity to invite the complete rearrangement of our lives around different priorities. We are invited if not indeed jerked to pay attention to God’s activity, movements and yearnings for the whole cosmos. In many respects we do remarkably well in the church and the even in our personal discipleship in trying to be responsive to the biddings of God as we are bathed in the biblical texts, proclamation, music and activities of the season. This we do against formidable cultural messages inviting is to delve ever deeper into the quicksand of greed and consumption. Although the current economic challenges chasten us mightily along side the gospel that this does not give a deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment.
Among the ways that we rearrange during this season is around responsiveness to the pervasiveness of human need and suffering. Every church I know anything about is busy collecting money and goods to alleviate suffering and depravation. I read about these noble, compassionate efforts in church bulletins and newsletters and I see the same on websites. The efforts of people of faith during this season of the year blow me away. More than that they make a real difference in the lives of real people. Thanks be to God for you and what you are doing with such focus and generosity.
I have often thought, and this year is no exception, what if the efforts of this season to come along side the needy continued with the same intensity all year long? After all the rearrangement of our priorities around the things of God, but especially being in solidarity with the poor, was never intended to last for just four or five weeks. “when the time had fully come God sent forth the Son” not just to save or change us for a few weeks. No, the plan was and his to change us and the whole cosmos for ever. Perhaps that is why the words of Howard Thurman continue to bless and haunt us. In referring to the Work of Christmas he says:
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
Have a wonder filled and blessed Advent and Christmas all year long.
Yours in Christ,
Gregory Vaughn Palmer