Posted by: smstrouse | December 17, 2010

What Is Advent (4) For?

As much as I know I’ll be complaining next week when the 1st Sunday after Christmas comes only ONE DAY after Christmas, I am glad that we get a longer week of Advent 4. Often, no sooner have we lit the fourth candle, we’re tearing down the Advent wreath to make way for Christmas. This year we get to savor the fourth candle. It feels to me like taking a long, deep breath. And no matter your feelings about Christmas, it’s an opportunity to ponder either ‘the real meaning of Christmas’ or reflect on insights from Advent meditations.

I very much appreciate this time to pause and breathe. On January 1 I’ll be taking on an addition to an already busy schedule. Paul Chaffee, the executive director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio is retiring, and I have been chosen to be the interim director. This is an amazing and wonderful thing, albeit a bit terrifying. But since Michael Pappas, the executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, tells me that this is a call, and Rita Semel, chair of the ICP board tells me it’s a mitzvah – I joke that I am caught between a call and mitzvah. God help me, I can do no other!

January 1 is now only two weeks away (and there’s this little thing called Christmas yet to do), so this Advent 4 pause is welcome. I even have the gift of a Service of Lessons and Carols tomorrow – so no sermon-writing tonight!  In my previous parish I used to complain when we did either Lessons and Carols or the children’s program on Advent 4 because I never got to preach on those texts. This year I give thanks that I can relax and enjoy the readings and the music and the candles and the people.

I’m going to just breathe and take it all in. And I am going to make it my Advent 4 intention (sort of like a New Years resolution, but better) to keep on breathing – one breath at a time. I’m also going to keep lighting the candles on my Advent wreath this week to remind me of the Light which will never be overcome by any of my anxieties, challenges, frustrations, or failures – and will be my inspiration, hope, joy, creativity, and Wisdom in the days ahead.

And when the Advent candles give way to Christmas lights and then to Epiphany stars, the Light of the world will outshine them all.  Truly the best present ever!

Light four candles to watch for Messiah; let the light banish darkness.
Christ is coming. Tell the glad tidings. Let your lights be shining.

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