An Advent Reflection by Gayle Boss
from On Being with Krista Tippett
"Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spend enough time with the tiniest creature, even a caterpillar, I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature." - Meister Eckhart
I learned that the roots of Advent run deep beneath the Christian Church - in the earth and its seasons. Late autumn, in the northern hemisphere, brings the end of the growing season. When early agricultural peoples had harvested their crops and stacked food in their larders, they gave a collective sigh of relief. Their long days in the fields were over. For their labor they had heaps of fruits, vegetables, grains, and meat. The group body called out,
At the same time, no matter how glad the party, they couldn't keep from glancing at the sky. Their growing season was over because the sun had retreated too far south to keep the crops alive. Each day throughout the fall they watched the light dwindle, felt the warmth weaken. It made them anxious, edgy. Their fires were no substitute for the sun. When they had eaten up the crop they were feasting on, how would another crop grow? Throughout December, as the sun sank and sank to its lowest point on their horizon, they felt the shadow of primal fear - fear for survival - crouching over them. They were feasting, and they were fearful, both. Yes, last year
the sun had returned to their sky
. But what if, this year, it didn't? Despite their collective memory, people wedded, bodily, to the earth couldn't help asking the question. Their bodies, in the present tense, asked the question.
Our bodies still ask that question. In December the dark and cold deepen, and our rational minds dismiss it as nothing. We
that on December 21, the winter solstice, the sun will begin its return to our sky. But our animal bodies react with dis-ease. We feel,
The light - life - is going
. Those particularly afflicted know themselves as SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder - sufferers. Some of us cope by seizing distractions the marketplace gleefully offers: shopping, parties, more shopping.
To be sure, some part of "the holiday season" is celebration of the harvest, for us, as it was for our ancestors, even if our personal harvest doesn't involve crops and barns. We throw a party to mark the end of another year and all it's brought. We do this in a big, bright, loud way. But for us also, as for our ancestors, the dark end of the year brings unrest. It
an end. It comes without our asking and makes plain how little of life's course we control. This uncertainty, we don't know how to mark. And so it marks us. We feel weighted, gloomy even, and we feel guilty because voices everywhere in myriad ways sing out, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."
The Church history book that got hold of me told me that my own annual December sadness was no reason for guilt. It was a sign of being wide awake in the world, awake enough to sense loss. And furthermore, there was a way to engage that sadness. That way was Advent.
The early Fathers of the Christian Church read the ebbing of light and heat and vegetable life each year as a foreshadowing of the time when life as we know it will end completely. That it will end is the rock-bottom truth we sense deep in our primal bones every December, and it rightly terrifies us. To their and our abiding fear of a dark ending, the Church spoke of an adventus: a coming. Faith proclaimed,
When life as we know it goes, this year and at the end of all years, One comes, and comes bringing a new beginning.
Advent, to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading. They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray -
ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows
beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called "the one thing necessary": that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death. One who brings a new beginning.
This is Christian tradition at its best, moving in step with creation. When the sun's light and heat wane, the natural world lets lushness fall away. It strips down. All energy is directed to the essentials that ensure survival. Engaging in Advent's stripping practices - fasting, giving away, praying - we tune into the rhythms humming in the cells of all creatures living in the northern hemisphere. We tune into our own essential rhythms.
Also This Sunday -
Please join us for a worship service that profiles the Christmas Story in word and song. The Church School children will be narrating and acting out the Lukan version of the story. There will be music by the children, guests soloist James Chavers, our soloists Kim Mendez-Mcleigh, Carol Lisek, Gerald Washburn and 4 hands on the piano with guest pianist Helen Karafilis-Spensley. A potluck lunch will follow the service in the parlors. Please drop off your food in the kitchen on the way to worship for the staff to arrange for us. We especially are in need of main dishes and child-friendly food.
Christmas Flower Request Form
Please help our sanctuary look glorious with a display of poinsettias. You may purchase one or more plants in honor or memory of a loved one. We will list all remembered persons in our Christmas Eve bulletin.
Your name ____________________________________________
In honor of ____________________________________________
In memory of ___________________________________________
Number of poinsettias ___________$8.50 each
Please make check payable to First Congregational Church of Pasadena
Poinsettias will be displayed Dec. 17th - 24th. You may take your plant home after the Christmas Eve worship service.
Advent/Christmas preview of events. Save the dates! Details to come:
Thurs. Dec. 14th
- Soup & Spirituality gathering at Pomeroy's house 6:30-8:30 pm
. They are hosting a second evening at their house during Advent to provide a little respite from all the "doing" this season. Church folks are invited to come and let us feed you with simple fare and then we will check in with one another and read a reflection. Please RSVP to email@example.com
Sun. Dec. 17th - Children's Pageant/potluck
Sun. Dec. 24th - morning at 10:00 a.m. and 5 p.m. worship services; evening service followed by gathering in the parlors with food and drink