Dear Friends in Christ,
When I was a kid, one of the highlights of this time of year was the arrival of the toy catalogs from places like Sears, JCPenney, and Montgomery Ward. I loved looking through them and imagining all the wonderful toys that might appear under the Christmas tree. I would dream about getting some of those really big LEGO sets, the latest action figures with the Kungfu grip, Tonka trucks, Hot Wheels cars and accessories, or maybe a Los Angeles Rams helmet or jacket. I look back at those days with such fondness because as a kid everything about Christmas seems so big and wonderful: the presents, the toys, the food, the gatherings…all of it!
Advent is about dreaming big. A glance at the traditional Advent Scriptures reads like a Christmas wish list. Savior, check (Luke 2:8-20). Peace, check (Isaiah 9:2-7). Reconciliation, check (Isaiah 11:1-10). Hope, check (Titus 2:11-14). New beginnings, check (Psalm 96). God with us,
check (John 1). What a glorious list it is—and just creating it warms my soul.
But this Advent season is different. The big spiritual dreams are still there—and we can add to that list a vaccine—but in just about every other aspect of life we are encouraged to think small this year. Empty engagement calendars that would otherwise be full of yuletide events, empty places at the Christmas table, empty pews on Christmas Eve. But this is not all bad, because we know that all our big Advent dreams are fulfilled in the tiniest of places: a manger.
To help us adjust to the smallness of this Advent and Christmas, I encourage you to think of how even the tiniest of things can make a big difference during a season of loss and upheaval. For example, we will have more time on our hands for prayer and reflection, which is a good thing. We also have time to consider those dearest to us and reach out to them with a call, a card, or a virtual hug.
As you read through this month’s Highlights, you will find other opportunities to make the Advent season a blessed one, even as you think small. You could join us in the parking lot on Christmas Eve to read the nativity story in Luke 2 and sing Silent Night. You might join us on Zoom for the Mister Rogers documentary or for the Just Mercy book discussion. You could also call or email the church to schedule a time to sit in the sanctuary for reflection, or to watch a sermon recording session. You could arrange to pick up a Christmas Carol songbook at the church and go caroling by yourself or with another household. You could take a few minutes to come by the sanctuary and make your contribution to the Christmas Greetings Candle Light Video. There are many ways to think small and still be fulfilled!
This will be a different Advent, but we can still dream big as we think small. I remember such thoughts crossing my mind as I made my Christmas wish lists each year. I knew that I wouldn’t get everything from my list, but it was fun to dream, and nice to know that someone was looking over my list and patiently absorbing my countless hints. My big toy dreams were never fully realized, but always met enough for me to know that I was loved.
May this Advent and Christmas season bring you the same realization. No Scrooge, Grinch, or virus can take that away.
“But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”” (Luke 2:10–12, NRSV)
Happy Advent and Merry Christmas!, Pastor Matt