I have reflected a great deal during this season of Advent; the awaiting the glorious celebrations of Christmas and what they truly represent. I fondly remember how, as a young boy, I could not wait for Christmas to come. I do not remember visiting or sitting on Santa Claus’s lap, but I do remember the near uncontrolled anticipation of what Santa was going to bring me for Christmas.
When I was a young parent, my emotions for Christmas were mixed. On one hand, I could not wait to see my children’s reactions to what Santa brought for them; this is truly a special time of year for children. It is also a very instructional time for children, because anticipation is a great aspect of our lives at any age.
My other mixed emotion about Christmas was one of disappointment and anguish; not at the coming of Santa, but the payment of bills. I have my own retail photography business and a retail camera shop. Would I sell enough goods to pay the bills? Would the customers flock to my door to spend their Christmas dollars and put my anguish to rest? More often than not, I had to run deep discount sales after New Year’s Day to pay the bills.
As a result, my Christmas days were a combination of happiness, joy, worry, and above all, fatigue. This fatigue was the result of being open for twelve to fourteen hours a day for the month prior to Christmas, which included Sundays; although on Sundays, I did not open until after I attended church services with my family.
I closed my business twenty-five years ago and became a high school teacher and then a college professor. My anguish and fatigue left me, but the feeling that Christmas was a chore took several years to be replaced by a new feeling of anticipation, the awaiting of the coming of the renewed spirit of God’s love. Being out of the retail business gave me more time to devote to volunteer work; this took the form of being very active in our church community.
The material anticipation of Christmas was replaced by the spiritual anticipation of something much greater. Christmas was replaced by Advent. Advent is a time of anticipation and waiting; patience and meditation. I am not one of the Christians who believe that Jesus is reborn every year; but I do believe that the spirit of Jesus is reborn and enlarged by the myriad of celebrations each Sunday morning as we, as a community, light the advent candles, awaiting the spiritual blessings that this season gives us.
I believe that God is with us twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. When I meditate at night, alone in my den, I can often feel the presence of my (personal) Angel of God (or the Holy Spirit, if you prefer) with me, guiding me into a deeper concentration and appreciation of what my meaning of life is and whether I am on the path that God wants me to pursue. It is a very important part of my day.
Therefore, Advent is special! It is a time for me to renew my dedication to volunteerism; and, God knows with he way the world is going, aid to those who Jesus blessed the most, the poor and forgotten, do need attention. For me, at this time of my life, it is enrolling people in the new Medicaid Expansion program in Virginia, assisting my wife and others in the feeding ministry at our church, and praying for people who need a closer relationship with God; (this is the most important practice I have in my aid to others). Each time I pray for someone to be well, to get a job, to comfort their anxieties, I grow in my own relationship with them, with my family, and most importantly, my relationship with God.
This season of Advent reminds me that Jesus lived among us to raise our concerns for those society leaves behind; to examine our own lives to enlarge our understanding of what we do in our lives and how we can live closer to God’s will; and, to show us that when our physical bodies die, we do not; our spiritual selves,(souls, if you wish) are the eternal creations of God.
I share this meditation with you with the idea of allowing you to understand why I write the way I do and hopefully enrich your lives, as it has mine. I pray that the love and compassion, the warmth, brotherhood, and anticipation we feel at this time of year can live with us throughout the new year.
My brothers and sisters, I wish you a very Merry Christmas.