An Advent Reflection
It’s the season of Advent in the Christian liturgical calendar. Traditionally, Advent was a season of increased fasting, prayer, and good works in preparation for the day on which the birth of Jesus is celebrated. It is a period meant to ready the community for the divine to walk hand-in-hand with us and all of our human brokenness. As a person who has always valued intellectual discovery and study as a way of connecting with both humanity and the divinity, this time of year brings me to an increased practice of study and reflection. As I reflect during this season, my first Advent living in my own apartment, it makes sense to look back on how I practiced the tradition while growing up.
My Mom will be embarrassed that I’m admitting the next facts so publicly. Every year, my family gets out our Advent wreath and candles, meaning to light one each Sunday leading up to Christmas. And every year we can’t exactly make it work. Candle lighting was often a day later than planned. Sometimes we hurried through the accompanying prayers. We failed to do it “perfectly.” We always imagined ourselves sitting in a loving family circle reading the Advent prayers and reflections religiously, but our humanity always seemed to get in the way. We would giggle, want to eat dinner, try to include our dog in the ritual. I have fond memories of our Advent candlelighting attempts not in spite of our failures, but because of them. In fact, upon reflection, all of my Advent memories involve very real moments of humanness:
I felt the poverty of our world as I helped families living in the neighborhoods around me collect donated gifts and make handmade decorations for their homes.
I learned about the power that money plays as I sat with my parents and helped them choose organizations to support with end-of-year gifts.
I experienced the joy of family and community as I crowded around fireplaces, pianos, and dinner tables to laugh, sing and share meals.
I celebrated the beauty within the difference between our world’s traditions as I lit the menorah with my cousins celebrating Chanakuh.
The themes of poverty, the power of money, the importance of community and the beauty of difference are universal within our human family. They reflect both the brokenness of our world and the beauty within our relationships and interconnectedness.
One of my favorite teachings of Jesus reflects on the power of human relationship. He said that for someone to truly love and care for God one must clothe, heal, feed, offer shelter and visit in prison the “least of these.”
One must see the divine worth in each person that is suffering and take action to help. In our world today, where a child dies every 45 seconds from malaria, and the “least of these” are sleeping in our streets and subways cars, there is no way to ignore the call to help. This December, make a conscious effort to see the worth in all and be reminded that you can make a difference. Support our high-impact work in Sierra Leone: www.tinyurl.com/hannahandnomi or reach out to your local neighbors in need.