The spiritual exercise of participating in Advent has been with the Christian church for over 1,500 years. In that respect, we’re joining a long line of adherents to Advent celebrations. I’ll be honest with you; Advent hasn’t been a deeply rooted practice in my life. Growing up, we never missed church on Sunday. My parents were adamant about attendance at Worship and Christian education. But attending Advent services and lighting an Advent wreath for each passing week wasn’t a part of my upbringing. Then I did a crazy thing a married a pastor. Now, attendance at Advent services was a must. And I didn’t enjoy it. Church in the evenings is, using a polite word rather than a crude one, difficult with toddlers. My girls just didn’t know how to sit quietly for anything that happened after 6:00 pm. So dragging them to church on Wednesday evenings was just that – a drag. Now, Advent is very much a part of my life. Visual Faith has brought an element of creativity and joy into what was once a chore. And then this year brought an entirely new wrinkle to the page.
Back in October, I was invited to speak at an Advent tradition practiced in my denomination known as Advent by Candlelight. These events are always scheduled during the first week of Advent where women gather to take a moment to remember what the season is all about, preparing them to focus on the Christ Child rather than what cookies to bake. Usually, food is served, songs are sung, and someone speaks about what’s coming in the four weeks that follow. But the Advent by Candlelight that I’ve been invited to speak
at this year is truly going to be a different experience for me. This event is taking place at a Mission in the heart of the worst neighborhood in our city. The attendees will be people I don’t know at all. The room will be made up of women who don’t have homes but live in abandoned buildings, walk the streets, struggle with addictions, and live lives I could only imagine. Needless to say – I’m nervous.
As I prayed through the writing of this talk, God helped me realize that no matter where you live, He is still God.
He still brings Hope into a world that seems hopeless for His hope is pure and true.
He still brings Peace to a people who seem bound to chaos and fear.
He still brings Joy to a world filled with sorrow and struggle.
He still brings Love where it seems in short supply. Those are the words of Advent, and they are still powerful and useful no matter your circumstance.
The ladies who will attend need to hear the name of Jesus every day, just like I do. They need to hear that the Infant we celebrate will hang upon a cross for the sins of us all and that their lives are 100% redeemable.
God has provided abundant blessings throughout the process of getting ready for what will be a precious time with some dear women. He has given me talented and dedicated friends, sisters in Christ, who have given more than they were asked. The words Look for the Blessings quickly became the theme for the talk because God provides when asked. As soon as that was settled, I called Pat Maier and asked this very busy woman if she would design a logo. I had her offering in my email less than 12 hours later. I turned it into a stamp and we were off!
My best friend, Melody, stepped up and created a tag project for everyone. Along with the tags, the participants will receive a bag filled with washi tape, scrapbook paper, digi paper, glue, colored pencils.
I also have to admit that handing this project to women who live in poverty and a place about which I know very little seemed a somewhat tone-deaf. But Melody created something of beauty that will walk with them throughout Advent, for they too deserve to think on things like peace and love. They too deserve to know that God brings joy and hope into this dark world.
So advent has taken on a new meaning this year as God has blessed me with a chance to look for His blessings in the midst of our lives here. Blessings come in strange packages sometimes, but He is faithfully showing us that He is indeed a God of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE – for all of us.