Advent tiptoes in

Needless to say, it has been an unsual Advent this year. Finding us outside of our normal busy mode of Christmas parties and congregational care, as well as active participation in church life, Advent came tiptoeing in with December. But for the Christmas tree and the gift shopping, I hardly knew it was there.

I kept praying for a deeper sense of the season, but did not quite know how to manufacture it. The flood provided further distraction, and suddenly it was the final week of Christmas with little but a general sense of God’s goodness. There was little relatedness to the babe in the manger or what that meant for me.

And then, just as quickly, Christmas came. Indeed, it could not be manufactured by me. The lesson we have learned perhaps more deeply than we would like, but equally with surprise and joy, has been how much Christ is made manifest through his bride, the church, and through his beloved children, all of us inside the church and out. Christ has come to us repeatedly in human form these last six months, and this season would be no different. So that is how Advent came to us also, brought by the people who have come to our doorstep, those we know and love and those we have only recently come to know. They have come in bunches, not knowing each other, dropping in unexpectedly or expectedly, but forming unexpected material implements of love and worship.

It reminded me that what the babe brought into the world, fundamentally, was love in its humblest form. Love found it’s way to us this year through people, strangers to one another, friends to us. We did not know how to look for it, nor could we find it on our own. Rather, it came to us, unbidden and unexpected. It took our humble, incidental encounters and created something beautiful, transcending us all.

A few days ago we had just such a rag tag, spontaneous group of people, strangers to one another, form the most beautiful of choirs in our kitchen, literally filling the space with music, worship, and Christmas spirit. It just so happened that they were all uniquely musically gifted, and as the carols filled the space, our joy rose up along with them. I have never experienced that kind of spontaneous carol singing, and had never encountered those themes and lyrics in such a personal way. The evening ended with all of these strangers offering prayers up together, in harmonies made sweeter by the fact that we knew each other only through this moment that we shared.

Such moments cannot be manufactured. They are the most brightly wrapped of Christmas gifts. At that moment, I knew that Advent had finally arrived, like the babe, in a most unexpected and humble form. And it continues to arrive, as others join the chorus of love born in the most incidental of encounters around our kitchen table. It is the best gift, and for me, Christmas has already come, no matter what packages await me under the tree.

From the Christmas carol, O Holy Night:

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

With deepest gratitude and love for you all,


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  • Melody DuBois

    Yes. Yes. Isn’t that how the truest Christmas is? Most hidden, most elusive, when I try to “make Christmas happen”. And why would I ever think I have the power to “make Christmas happen”? Christmas by definition is Great Giving — unsolicited and underserved. I can only wait – with Mary, Joseph, Simeon, Anna – wait for His coming. Then it comes. He comes. Around some unexpected corner, in some unexpected moment — when I least expect it — when I have finally stopped trying to “make Christmas happen” and am surrendered to “letting Christmas come.”

    So glad our Lord has blessed you with such moments, and all of us through your retelling.

    “Oh Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in. Be born in us today.
    We hear the Christmas angels the Great Glad Tidings tell. Oh, come to us – abide in us – our Lord, Immanuel!”

  • Heather James

    Thinking of you all during this Christmas day. As I re-watched the video of Steve walking, and read your words about Advent and Christmas, I am reminded of what transcendent, powerful, awesome, gracious love we celebrate today. Thanks for letting us all join in the journey with you.

  • Betsy

    So glad your Christmas was filled with music, love, and joy!
    Hau’oli Makahiki Hou,
    The Kings (from rainy Honolulu!)