As is the case with most people, my life becomes increasingly busy with each passing day as we near Christmas. With this in mind, my husband and I began our Advent and Christmas preparations a bit early. While I contemplated this First Sunday of Advent writing, my dear husband raked up the last of this year’s leaves. After staring at the empty page before me for what seemed like hours, I decided a change of scenery might provide some inspiration. Though I intended to head outdoors for a quick walk, I stopped to admire the large piles of leaves that flanked the parkway in front of our house. Either my husband had tended to those leaves extremely quickly or I did actually sit at my computer for far longer than one unproductive hour. With that, I walked around the house to compliment Mike on his productivity.
Seconds later, I found the poor man in the midst of evergreen branches which were strewn about our patio. Mike had turned his attention to the barren planters which once boasted the colorful blossoms which we enjoyed this past summer. Mike had already filled two planters with a variety of those branches, colorful red twigs and a few faux poinsettia blossoms and berries. His creations looked at least as attractive as the decorations that have appeared in stores everywhere for the past several weeks. When he realized I was there, Mike told me, “I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and get these pots done.” This declaration enticed me to get something done as well.
I scrapped my plans to walk and set out to find Christmas Cards. Mike had seen a nice selection at Tuesday Morning a few weeks earlier and he advised me to start there. With a bit of unspoken skepticism, I agreed. When I arrived at the store, I found the card display precisely where Mike said it would be. There were numerous boxes to choose from, but not enough of any one design to meet my needs. We normally select one card to send to everyone on our list. Still, I perused box after box. In the process, I found five cards which I really liked. Each one featured lovely artwork and an inspiring greeting. Though these messages focused on varied aspects of Christmas, each one expressed the true meaning of this special day in its own way. As I selected the boxes I needed, I laughed at my less-than-hopeful attitude at the onset of this quest. I had left home with the intention of finding the perfect card with the perfect message at the perfect price. I did not expect to find it at this store. In the end, I had found five perfect cards with five perfect messages at a far better price than I expected. In addition, I found inspiration for this writing.
Every year, I begin Advent with the resolve to keep the true meaning of Christmas in my mind and in my heart. Every year, I struggle to do this with the rest of God’s people. How difficult it is to reconcile the trials and tribulations of this life with the absolute miracle which occurred in Bethlehem so long ago! When I returned to the scriptures, they reminded me that our struggle is nothing new. Though their settings seem somewhat remote to us, our biblical counterparts suffered in many of the ways we suffer today. These troubles might be economic, health-related or legal. They might be matters of the heart, matters of faith or matters of need. Regardless of the source, unrest played merciless havoc with our ancestors in the faith just as it plays havoc with us today. In the earliest times, God responded through the prophets. In Bethlehem, God responded with Jesus—the same Jesus who continues to respond to each one of us today.
Mike’s unexpected handiwork with our planters inspired me to set out on my Christmas Card search. My encounter with those inspiring images and verses rekindled the hope which had been but a flicker an hour earlier. I am quite certain that, throughout Advent, you and I will encounter the unexpected in many forms. However these adventures unfold, the final outcomes depend upon us. When we remain open to God who responded to this world’s troubles by sending Jesus, we remain open to God’s most precious gifts. Our hope in the things to come and our certainty regarding God’s love for us arm us to deal with the unexpected in all of its forms. When we do so, we inspire those we meet along the way to do the same. This is our Advent journey: To share our hope and to spread God’s love as only we can.
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