I have missed the opportunity to visit with many of you during this pandemic and I want to share a few thoughts and hopes with you during this Advent season.
What a year this has been:
- Pandemic and quarantine and political division. Racial unrest and demonstrations across the country. Unemployment, poverty, and widespread hunger. Illness and death from COVID-19.
- A growing acknowledgement of inequity for some and privilege for others. Using Zoom for worship, meetings, family gatherings, education, yoga. Fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness.
- Such change in our church communities as we have used technology to continue our ministries, to study, for meetings, and worship. Some say that the church will be forever changed. Some can’t wait to return to the old, familiar ways.
We are weary and worried and we want answers. I want to know when I can hug my grandchildren and when there will be enough vaccine for everyone. All of this weariness and questioning feels like the wilderness that we read about in the Old Testament. But wait, this is Advent – how do we reconcile our despair with the promise and hope of the Christ Child? Advent is the time of waiting and watching for the birth of Christ, the light coming into the world.
What is helping me is to continue the traditions of my faith and my family. We have hung the Moravian star over our front door and set up the manger that was my parents’, purchased in the 1950’s and given to me, their eldest daughter. Tomorrow we will decorate our Christmas tree even though our children and grandchildren will not be here to admire it. We are playing the beloved music that we cannot hear performed live. We will worship as usual throughout Advent and on Christmas Eve. Christmas will still come!
It is my hope that we can all use this period of waiting and hoping for quiet reflection – time to imagine a different way to listen and respect and understand those who are different than we are – and remember that we are all God’s children, all of us. What can each of us do in the coming year that will demonstrate that we believe the promise of Advent, the light coming into the world? And, what can we do together to demonstrate that we believe the gift of Christmas?
For me, candles are an important symbol of joy and hope and love. I light them almost every day for dinner and fill the house with them when family and guests come. If you do not already do this, I invite you to light a candle every day for the remainder of Advent, continuing until Epiphany on January 6th. Take a few moments to pray, to listen for God’s voice, to read the Scripture or an Advent devotional.
I have been reading the Advent and Christmas Devotional 2020 from Presbyterians Today, entitled “Let Us Light Candles.” It uses the poem “I Will Light Candles This Christmas” by Howard Thurman. Written in 1973, it still speaks to us today.
I Will Light Candles This Christmas– Howard Thurman
I will light candles this Christmas,
Candles of joy despite all the sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living,
Candles that will burn all year long.
Prayer – We are grateful that you are still our God and will always be our God. We will celebrate Christmas again this year as we always have. May we remember that the baby Jesus is a symbol of hope and love and justice for all – the Light that has come into our dark world. Let us light candles as a remembrance of this truth. Amen My prayers and wishes are with you all for a joyous Christmas season, full of light and gratitude.
– Audrey Trapp, Ruling Elder and Moderator of the Presbytery of Baltimore