An Advent reflection by Mary Lou Edgar, December 4, 2022.
This Sunday begins the second week of Advent.
I have always thought of Advent in a myriad of ways. While in church, I focused on waiting for the birth of Jesus. When I wasn’t in church, it was the countdown to Christmas — parties to plan (perpetual homeroom mother), decorating, gifts for teachers, neighbors, and of course children. There wasn’t much time for prayer and contemplation.
As a child, I remember that all our neighbors were incredible bakers. They would always arrive on Christmas Day with such amazing package of goodies. We kids were thrilled, but my mother, not so much. She would always tell us to go find something to give them (usually something for one of us) that she would replace later. This experience made Christmas very frustrating for her. We (kids), on the other hand, loved it. We just felt sorry for the poor family that gave us delicious goodies and was rewarded with socks.
My mother didn’t want the neighbors’ candy and cookies (?!), so she never prepared for this to happen. What my mother yearned for was some peace to ponder what Advent really is. She loved going to church to think about the birth of Jesus. She never understood the connection between that and getting cookies and candy from friends.
For many years, I was angry at my mother for not appreciating what people brought us. This was an important part of Appalachian culture. They were trying to be kind and she felt pressured to respond. As I matured, I came to realize what appeared to be happening. All these people were in different spiritual places. My mother never realized that it was just as wonderful to receive with dignity as it was to give.
The Greatest Gift
When I began to think seriously about Advent, I realized that I needed to spend time each day preparing for the greatest gift of all: Jesus Christ. I found meditation practices that touched my heart and made me think. I began to anticipate rather than dread this season.
Last week in our Weekly Vision there was a reflection from Richard Rohr where he spoke of St. Francis “who realized that since God had become flesh,” we didn’t need to wait for Holy Week and Easter to “solve the problem” of human sin; the problem was solved from the beginning.” Christmas became the great celebratory feast of Christians because “it basically says that it is good to be human,” to be on this earth, to be flesh, to have emotions. We don’t need to be ashamed of who we are because God loves all that we are. There was much more to this, but I found myself thinking a great deal about celebrating who we are. What a gift!
Each year, I baked Christmas cookies with my children and placed them on a huge table. We invited all the children in our diverse neighborhood to come, have hot chocolate, and fill a bag with cookies. It was great fun.
One year a young child who is Jewish came to talk to me. He was very interested in our nativity. He asked me if the baby was Jesus. I said yes. He asked me if I believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Again, I said yes. He thought about that and said he understood that is what we believe but he didn’t understand why we felt the need to cut down trees. St. Francis believed that every tree should be decorated with lights to show their true status as God’s creation. A beautiful belief, but I wonder how Richard Rohr might have responded to this little one. I didn’t do very well.
Have A Wonderful Advent!
Don’t stop sharing the spirit of Advent when Christmas gets here. We just finished celebrating the Season of Creation. We affirm that Christ is everywhere. Amazing that we do that right before Advent. We need to share the gift of love available to us during Advent and forever. We are fortunate to have this period of time in which we can more deeply reflect on our relationship with God and with one another.
Have A Blessed Christmas!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Lou Edgar, MSS, is a clinical social worker who founded A Better Chance for Our Children, an adoption and foster care agency that works to find permanent homes for children in the foster care system. Mary Lou was the Executive Director of ABCFOC, but she is now retired. She graduated from Neumann University and Bryn Mawr School of Social Work and Social Research. She and her husband joined SsAM in 2021.