|Meditation for Advent
Prepare ye the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
In the name of God, as we begin again. AMEN.
Advent is about beginning. The beginning of Jesus Christ come into the world. Once again.
Good beginnings do take preparation.
But all the preparation in the world will not help us if we never actually begin!
On Saturday, we decided it was time to begin decorating for the holidays.
Since we will be away for about ten days after Christmas at a family reunion in California, there was some talk about if we would decorate at all.
While it still doesn’t seem quite right at Christmas without our children, it didn’t seem quite right not to decorate either.
And I started to realize that there are so many things that we do cyclically —especially in the church—that are always a beginning once again. And each year as we begin again our traditions and birthdays and anniversaries, we realize that things change and are never quite the same.
The Celtic poet John O’Donohue says that “there is a certain innocence about a beginning with its excitement and promise of something new. But beginnings emerge only through undertaking some voyage into the unknown (even when we begin again)….There are journeys that we have begun that have brought us great riches and refinement, but we have had to travel through dark valleys of difficulty and suffering. Had we known at the beginning what the journey would demand of us, we might never had set out. Yet the rewards and gifts of beginning have become vital to who we are.” (To Bless the Space Between Us, p. 2)
So as Saturday dawned, the first task was to get the tree. Would Charlie and the Lions have sold out of trees yet…would we find the right one?….. would it fall off the car on the way home?…..
Once again the tree was purchased and in the stand. A different kind of fir tree this year and it fit in its spot—-some years it doesn’t. There was that year that Jack and I had to bring the tree in and put it up. Jack was about 10 years old. It was too heavy. We couldn’t get it straight in the stand. We both cried.
Next job—-get all the decorations out. In what box WAS the wreath hanger?
And the lights…which will work? Will there be a trip or two or three to Lowe’s for all the missing or broken items? And, by the way, Where ARE the extension cords?
At some point, it goes through your head—especially as you get older—why decorate at all? You just have to take it down again and put it in boxes in a few weeks.
Why begin again at all?
There is a story of a man who set out to build his new home.
He had just stripped the sod off the field to begin digging out the foundation when an old man from the village happened to walk by.
The old man said to the younger man: “You have the worst of it behind you now.”
The younger man laughed and said: “But I have only just begun.”
To which the old man replied: “That’s what I mean, you have begun; and to make a real beginning is the most difficult act.”
And so it makes sense that an old Irish proverb says that “A good beginning is half the work.”
The quiet of Advent sometimes allows us to remember that we have a new beginning calling to us.
In a letter between Boris Pasternak and Olga Ivinskaya:
“When a great moment knocks on the door of our life, its sound is often no louder than the beating of your heart and it is very easy to miss.” (O’Donohue)
This week at 10 am we heard the story of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. (If you haven’t seen it, you’ll have a chance this Friday December 20 at 7 pm)
Scrooge is given a wake up call to make a new beginning.
It takes THREE Spirits—-of the Past, Present and Future —-to get Scrooge to turn from a life of greed and idolatrous love of money and begin a life of love and giving.
For some of us, a health scare or sad ending will give us that push.
I don’t know if I would have left the law for ministry if my father had not died when he did.
I don’t know if I would have had the courage to go and live in South Africa without having a serious illness.
At some point in life, you realize that if you don’t make the beginning, transformation and resurrection never happen.
And sometimes, like Scrooge, it takes a good scare to wake us up.
It is part of our Gospel tradition to begin anew. Each day when our feet hit the floor.
Each week when we decide to attend to our work. Each year when we decide on planting a garden each spring, making vacation plans, celebrating our birthday, or getting the Christmas boxes out once again. It might be a bigger beginning—a new job, a new relationship, a wedding, a new house, a treatment, a surgery.
So we got the tree. And the lights worked. Bryan only went to Lowe’s once. We finally found the extension cord.
And we are glad we made the beginning once again. AMEN.
(c)2019. The Rev. Martha N. Macgill