Each month, on the first Tuesday at 7 a.m., a table or two of men gather at River Road Church, Baptist to eat breakfast, shoot the breeze and pray for whatever is on their minds that morning. If you like your eggs and bacon free, your coffee hot and your conversations free-ranging, join us.
Preacher that I am, I try to throw a devotional thought in the conversation. Yesterday my thought was a paragraph from John Westerhoff’s book, A Pilgrim People: Learning Through the Church Year.
“For many of us, Advent is preparation for a secular Christmas through frantic, exhausting escapist behavior. We eat too much, party too much, stay up too late. And when Christmas comes, we fall apart. We frantically decorate and clean our homes. We buy presents. By the end of Advent some have experienced what they call “Christmas joy,” but it is short-lived and lacking in depth. It is a season when the lonely tend to experience greater loneliness, the broken have their wounds opened again, the weary end up more tired, and everyone is poorer. Few experience a second coming, a rebirth of new life, and the presence of that peace, hope, healing, love, joy promised to those who need them most. If the church is be a gift to those whose lives cry out for the good news, it will need to rethink how it integrates the stories of people with its story during the Advent season.”
I am not certain I know how to do this last task suggested by Westerhoff—integrate the stories of our lives with the stories of Advent. One possibility is to reread the prophecies of Isaiah and the first couple chapters of Matthew and Luke, then ponder how they speak to us.
I am certain of this. Westerhoff describes the season with piercing accuracy. We skate along its surface, never digging into its depths, particularly its challenge to all that is superficial about our celebration of the season.
Phillips Brooks was correct when he wrote that “the wondrous gift” is given “silently.” So many of the best gifts come that way, and we need to be alert to welcome them.