Sunday (November 1, 2014) was the first day of Advent, the period demarcated by the four Sundays before Christmas. In Advent, Christians prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth on Christmas Day. Although the biblical account of Joseph and Mary journeying to Bethlehem, where Mary supposedly gave birth to Jesus, is fictional, this year try thinking of Advent as a journey:
- As with any journey, taking one step at a time can make the seemingly impossible possible and thereby reduce (or avoid) much of the stress people frequently experience in December.
- Let each step draw you closer to your goal.
- With each Christmas greeting—whether given verbally, with a hug, by a card, or electronically—offer a brief prayer for the well-being of the person(s) greeted. Prayer draws us into the mystery that is God.
- Choose gifts evocative of God's gifts of life, love, and light to us, gifts that the story of Jesus' birth symbolizes. Gifts reenact the story of the incarnation as God presence within us becomes more clearly manifest.
- With each Christmas decoration that you see or display, recall the beauty of life observed in the world of nature, in other people, and in you. Beauty is a sign of God's continuing presence and activity in the world.
- Pause for refreshment (food, drink, sleep, and time with loved ones) along the way. Nobody runs an ultra-marathon without refreshment; nobody survives Advent without stopping for refreshment and renewal.
- Choose a destination for your journey charted not by a to do list, but by a firm conviction that the exertions of your journey will forever transform you, increasingly filling you with life and love abundant. The Christian life, far more than a destination, is a journey of becoming more fully the person that God intends one to be.