Advent Reflections – Week Three
Advent is the season of the church year four weeks before Christmas. This Advent season we encourage you to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth with these daily reflections and/or in any other way that helps you to center on the true meaning of Christmas and the love of Jesus Christ.
Week Three – Reason to Rejoice
All families and communities have their Scrooges. In many ways, they are a gift. They can help us cut through the fluff and remind us to not get emotionally hijacked. Underneath the excessive negativity, they often have a good point. Yet, God invites us to a life incompatible with constant begrudgement and chronic frustration. In Advent, we re-enact Mary’s contemplation of God’s call. Pondering these things produced in her, as it will in us, freedom and joy.
How can you be loving and thoughtful toward those who are grumpy this week?
If you are prone to negativity, why do you think that is? How can you break free from what’s eating at you?
In Mary’s example of openness, we see someone not merely willing–but enthusiastic–to obey God. As Richard Foster reminds us, “Joy, not grit, is the hallmark of holy obedience. We need to be lighthearted in what we do to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. It is a cheerful revolt against self and pride. Our work is jubilant, carefree, merry. Utter abandonment to God is done freely and with celebration. And so I urge you to enjoy this ministry of self-surrender. Don’t push too hard. Hold this work lightly, joyfully.”
How could you practice the spiritual discipline of taking yourself less seriously?
In what areas of your life could you work harder?
In what areas should you stop working so hard?
Mary is blessed to be chosen, and she realizes it. How would that change things for you–to understand your life fundamentally as blessed? Not cursed. Not unfair. Not a complete mess. But fortunate and abundant. To begin his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus fundamentally flips the conventional thinking about who could receive God’s blessing. It’s exactly those who appear most cursed, most unlikely to find God’s favor, that Jesus calls blessed in the Kingdom of the Heavens. His mother was among those who “got” it.
Who is someone you’d consider blessed?
How can you more fully embrace the blessing of your own life?
Joy isn’t just felt; it’s expressed. In chapter one of Luke’s gospel, Mary cannot keep from bursting into song. The recognition of her chosenness and the freedom found in accepting acceptance render her totally unselfconscious. Her only awareness is of God’s greatness and desire to save. Advent isn’t just about having joy, and it certainly can’t be forced. It’s about catching a glimpse of God’s joy, and God’s delight is expressed in creation itself.
William Wordsworth and C.S. Lewis wrote about being “surprised by joy.” When’s the last time you were? What was your spontaneous reaction?
One of the prevailing messages of Advent is that Christ has “lifted up the lowly.” The arrival of Jesus and his pronouncement that “the Kingdom of God has come near” are good news to the hungry, the weak, the ignored. Among the least of these, “those who mourn,” the grief-stricken, might (understandably) be the least likely to feel cheerful. But blessing and joy are accessible even to them. In the post-Advent arrangement, even those experiencing devastating loss can find transformation. They are lifted up.
Who has lifted you up this year?
Instead of stumbling to find the “right” thing to say, what non-verbal comfort can you offer to someone who is hurting?