And I thought my sofa was Advent headquarters

by Kristin on December 6, 2010

in Belief, doubt & hope

Photo (of not my tree) by Steve Wilson

Our Christmas tree is up—well, it’s up, but that’s about it. I guess you could call it a work in progress. On Saturday we went out, squinting through the flying flakes to decipher which snow-covered tree was the right size and shape for our living room. Back at home, furniture was moved, the tree was set in its stand and watered, and that was that. It stood there, melting its snow onto our floor, while we rushed around getting ourselves out the door for two holiday gatherings.

Yesterday I managed to put the lights on the tree, in between church, a Saint Lucia pageant rehearsal, and an evening meeting back at church. Of course, getting the lights up was no small task. First I had to go back to the store because I had bought the wrong lights—white lights on white cords. Ugh. Now we’re in the process of looking at the calendar to find a two-hour block of time when all five of us can be home together (and relaxed) to decorate the tree. Who knows, maybe we will even have an extra 15 minutes to sip some hot cocoa!

Yes, it’s Advent, and once again I’m struck—frustratingly so—by the irony of a season that’s all about peace, waiting and togetherness wrapped up in a pace that doesn’t allow for any of that.

Step 1: Locating Jesus

Last Monday I wrote my first of four Advent posts, based on the theme set out by Christine Sine for her annual Advent series: “Jesus is Near: How Do We Draw Close?” “It seems clear that the kind of closeness we’re talking about here, in relationship to Jesus and Advent, requires action and participation,” I wrote. Today, as I think about the “action and participation” of my weekend, it’s clear that I need to be a bit more specific. What type of action actually helps me draw close to Jesus?

First, I need to find out where Jesus is. I believe he is “near,” but where, exactly? (And for those of you thinking “He’s everywhere!”, yes, yes, I know, but that doesn’t really help me calm running around and focus.)

It seems to me that Jesus is in the simple, humble, modest places, where babies fuss and eventually sleep, where animals sigh, where floors and windows are never perfectly clean, and where the only “decoration” might be a cluster of four candles and some evergreen branches.

It also seems to me that Jesus is wherever there are people who are most needy and vulnerable, who are feeling most alone and hopeless. He is near people who are waiting to be taken seriously—to be asked “What would make a difference?” and then to actually have their responses be heard.

Step 2: Getting myself from here to there

I see those humble places, those vulnerable people, around me. If that’s where Jesus is, how do I draw close? Well, for starters, I can go sit with a friend who has a new baby, lending support and maybe a bit of wisdom about strategies to calm the fussiness. And I can collect money from friends to purchase two baby swings for another mom I know with newborn twins. She has three other children, and her husband currently has to live in a town an hour away as he looks for work. She needs a lot of support and hope.

I’m not saying that my own family isn’t important, or that having a Christmas tree up in my living room doesn’t serve as a daily reminder that this season is different.

But I’m also not going to fool myself into thinking that Advent is going to be all about cozy evenings by the tree with the people I love, knitting and sipping cocoa. There’s probably going to be some busyness involved, if I’m going to get myself from here to there—from my sofa and not-yet-decorated tree to the people Jesus is tending to. But I have a feeling that kind of activity will seed the very peace I’m looking for as Christmas draws near, and I finally learn how to draw close.

(Next Monday I’m planning to take a closer look at all the stuff that gets in the way of my movement toward Jesus. Trust me, there’s a lot!)

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  • http://themoderngal.com The Modern Gal

    Thanks for the reminder that there are vulnerable people in our every day lives — maybe we don’t even realize they’re vulnerable. Reaching out to anyone might have the effect of bringing us closer to Jesus and helping another person feel more comforted during Advent.

  • http://thealchemistblog.wordpress.com Genevieve

    Very important things to think about. While I can’t necessarily identify with the Jesus being the reason for the season part, I do like to celebrate the holidays nonetheless and use it as an opportunity to support the values we have in common: charity, family, friends, unconditional love and the like. I’m trying to have an out-of-the-box Christmas this year. I’ve volunteered to pick up catering on Christmas Eve so no one has to cook (I know it sounds like sacrilege, but I cook homemade every day!), I’ve cut down the gift list, with most people receiving homemade food, we’re planning a volunteer gig, and we’re going shopping for items that a local pet shelter needs. I’m looking for more ways to do it, too…I’ve never felt like Christmas lived up to my expectations of how it was supposed to feel–and I think a lot of people feel that. I think I’ll be sitting down, making a list of all the values I want to celebrate, and all the feelings I want to feel this holiday, and coming up with a way to do each. The key, I’m thinking, will involve some spin on “less is more” and “alternative is good”. I’m alternative, so it should work.

    And our tree? Still in its box from last year. ;D

  • Matthew (@enterworship)

    Your honesty rocks my socks off. :) Not much more I can think to say here for now.

  • http://livinginabeautifulmess.blogspot.com Cheryl Ensom Dack

    I like this, Kristin. Thinking about this makes me re-feel something I keep coming back to, over and over, lately. And that’s this: the Christianity I grew up in was always asking me to “find” Jesus. And it was made oh-so-very-clear that that was going to involve a reading-of-the-Bible-and-praying session, and that one or even ten of those was simply not going to cut it. Jesus was “right there” but was waiting for me to get my head in the right spot or something. That clearly was going to involve MORE of what I was already doing (which was a LOT!) because I was always in pursuit of it. There was never a resting back into. In my brain/heart this never worked and I finally stopped fighting that. I don’t think I’ve “found Jesus,” but I do know where he’s not: up there, out there, in some nebulous-place-i-have-not-yet-reached.

  • http://www.halfwaytonormal.com Kristin T.

    The Modern Gal, you make a really important point: sometimes we don’t even realize the people around us are vulnerable. I think that’s partly because people have gotten so good at hiding their vulnerability (strong=good) and partly because we tend to have strong stereotypes of vulnerability (ie: homelessness). Inguess we all need to open our eyes a bit wider and dig a bit deeper.

    Genevieve, your idea about making a list of values you want to celebrate and feelings you want to feel, along with concrete ways to make them happen is right on target. I have to admit, there are many non-believers like you that I feel more akin to than many Christians who celebrate the season in “concept” but not action. Thanks for making the world better in ways that feel right to you.

    Matthew, thanks for letting me know! That’s a great encouragement.

    Cheryl, I’m so glad you stopped chasing that Jesus so many churches/Christians paint. I spent a lot of time doing the same thing–figuring that God was waiting in the wings for me to get my act together. Somehow this Advent post theme feels different–not like Jesus is hiding or impatiently tapping his toe, waiting for us, but like he wants something organic and beautiful to grow, and he’s patiently encouraging us to let our guard down and draw near.

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