Advent 2022

2020, the Year of the Pandemic, began quietly and ended with
well over 320,000 deaths. Life changed while I was blinking.
Social isolation, quarantine, masks, fear, and death filled our
days and nights. Life as we knew it was upended—some might
say, suspended.

Change was forced on you and me because we wanted to
survive a virus we could not see. Six-feet social distancing,
masks, and the additional washing of hands became new
practices for sentient beings. Of course, there was a reaction to
all of this. In the heart and minds of many, the pandemic is still
thought to be a hoax. According to ER nurses, some patients in
their death throes with the virus denied having it. So, it goes.
The New York Times still publishes the daily and total death
tolls. At present we’re at about 325 deaths a day, and well over
1,000,000 dead.

During Advent, nights lengthen as we approach the winter
solstice. In this year 2022, the darkness seems to mirror the
darkness at the height of the pandemic as well as exhaustion
from a tumultuous election year. Advent is the season for
reflection, when we simultaneously grieve our losses and count
our blessings. It is a time of watching, waiting, and preparing
for light to enter our lives at the time of greatest darkness.
In the Christian tradition, we light four candles during our
Advent services (one each Sunday) – for hope, peace, joy, and 
love – to dispel the darkness. The Jewish festival of Hanukkah
also centers around light. Sarah and I have been lighting
Hanukkah candles to affirm that light will overcome the dark.
No, we are not hedging our bets! We just love the traditions
and practices of our friends and neighbors. They inform us in
our thin places and remind us of our common need, in this case
for illumination.

When Christmas Eve arrives, we read the story of the Christ
child—the Light of the World—and the Christ candle on the
Advent wreath is lit on Christmas Eve, reminding us of the
appearance of a brilliant light symbolized by the Star of
Bethlehem. Is there a better way to see it? After all, this is a
story for you and me about the lowly, the weak, the poor, the
needy, the broken, and the lost. All that is holy tells us that we
need light to see a new way through the darkness of life.
I acknowledge being naïve. I still believe this story. Many
Christians claim it and practice something different. They say
they believe the story and are saved through that belief, and
then they paradoxically practice greed and power and subject
others to their own demands. Their faith is exclusive and
includes only those who believe as they do. I resist that
paradigm and hold out to any who will listen the vision of
Advent: seeing peace, hope, joy, and love through practicing
them daily by radical acts of kindness, generosity, and giving
away portions of what I/we have.

Sitting in an apartment this Advent season, I am quietly
thinking that I am thankful for the many people who do not
claim my faith tradition and yet practice it without any
forethought. At the same time, paradoxically, I’m thinking of
those I know who claim faith in this story and do not practice it
except for their own ends. With blindfolds in place, they bray
like donkeys in the belief that they can see, and yet they
stumble around in the darkness destroying all that they touch.
I’d like to think that I’m right. Regardless, it’s Advent and I’m
watching and waiting to see more light – the light of hope, love,
grace, joy, and peace appear in the midst of our struggles with
inequality, racism, bigotry, poverty, sickness, despair, and fear.
It has only taken me 78 years to realize that it is I who need to
light candles and practice being in the light.

I wish you light in these dark days – light for hope and beauty
and strength. I look forward 
to seeing you this Sunday morning.

Copyright © *2022, First Church of Monson, Congregational, United Church of Christ
"No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here."

5 High Street, Monson, Mass. 01057  (413) 267-3312

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