This week is the first Sunday of Advent. (I know; the stores have been in full-on Christmas mode for a month already. Don’t get me started.)
Already, there’s a sort of electricity in the air, a sort of buzz of things ramping up to what is either, depending on your perspective, the “hap-happiest season of all,” or the busiest and most stressful time of the year. Recently, I’ve been noticing a whole array of “challenges” designed, apparently, to help us navigate our way through this sometimes overwhelming season: There’s the photo-a-day challenge, or the get-all-your-shopping-done-by-December-1-so-you-can-enjoy-the-season challenge, or the workout-everyday-to-combat-all-those-holiday-party-calories challenge. Sometimes, those kind of things are fun – I don’t want to sound too much like a Christmas humbug – but sometimes I am astounded at the ways we come up with to put pressure on our selves.
So instead, I have a simpler challenge for Advent: Just come to worship on Sundays. That’s all. Just be here.
Be here and join your voices with all these other voices who are singing about hope as we wait and watch. Be here as we light the candles on the Advent wreath, the light growing stronger as one more candle is lit each week. Be here as we point to the light that shines in the darkness, a light so strong and true that even the darkness does not overcome it.
It’s a good story we tell in this season.
It’s a story that moves from the vast reaches of the cosmos (“Oh that you would tear open the heavens and come down,” cries the prophet Isaiah) to the messy reality of human life (a baby, wrapped in strips of cloths, lying in a manger, loved by his mama).
It’s a story about hope in the midst of despair.
It’s a story about the power of God to turn the world upside down.
It’s a story that sometimes gets lost in the cookies and the wrapping paper and the never-ending to-do lists.
And I get it: I’ve got family traditions and lists upon lists, too, and I’m not giving them up anytime soon. So if a photo-a-day challenge is life-giving and joyful for you, carry on. If baking dozens of cookies is your thing, go for it. If it’s not really Christmas without multiple trips to the mall, well, good luck to you.
But don’t let the season get in the way of the story.
Be here on Sundays in Advent. That’s all. Just be here, and watch for the light. It’s a sight to see.
P.S. If you really can’t imagine a challenge like this without a social media hashtag, then go ahead and post a picture with #FCCAdventChallenge. Or “check-in” on Facebook at First Christian Church Greensboro. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is the story, and the light, and that you’re here to see it. #BeHereInAdvent