It’s Advent. It’s snowing in Minnesota. Sr. Katherine is skyping with friends in Canada and Missouri. I’m making soup across the river. A few of us Vis Companions are preparing for a meeting tomorrow. And we are all waiting, with anticipation, for the Christ child to be born.
What are you up to this second Sunday in Advent? Anyone shoveling a walk? Chopping down a tree? Adorning their place of dwelling with some white lights or setting out their mangers? Who is baking cookies or reviewing recipes for the company that may join them in the coming days ahead? Who has laid themselves in the snow and fluttered furiously to make an angel appear? Anyone stuck in a rut? Depressed? Wondering how to pay a bill, let alone buy a friend a present? Who among us is without joy as the very notion of “belovedness” escapes us?
I think of each of these possible activities, or states of being, and I return to meditate specifically on my own; I’m simmering a pound of diced potatoes in stock with kale, red pepper and onion as the snow falls, and my heart feels about to burst with the beauty of this quiet Sunday afternoon. But I know what it is to know sorrow at this time of year.
I caught a particularly inspired homily from Fr. Michael O’Connell this morning at Church of the Ascension, that links together all these disparate thoughts. In his reflection, Father spoke of the debilitating role of shame in our lives — how feeling worthless keeps us stuck — feeling unable to take our next best steps and unworthy to live our callings. He discussed the role of the Christ child, God being born among us, to remind us of our belovedness, to heal of us our brokenness, and to teach us how to forgive and stand upright. He concluded his homily, reading again this selection from the first Chapter of Paul’s letter to the Phillipians:
Brothers and sisters:
I pray always with joy in my every prayer for all of you,
because of your partnership for the gospel
from the first day until now.
I am confident of this,
that the one who began a good work in you
will continue to complete it
until the day of Christ Jesus.
God is my witness,
how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer:
that your love may increase ever more and more
in knowledge and every kind of perception,
to discern what is of value,
so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,
filled with the fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ
for the glory and praise of God.
As my closing prayer, I invite you to consider how you are a partner to St. Paul in the gospel. What good work has God begun in you? How will this get complete as Christ makes his way to be born? I join the apostle in my prayers, that we may all know an increase in love; that we may discern what is of value; that we may count ourselves as worthy to receive the child born among us this Advent season.