This time of year most people are focused on buying Christmas presents. We surf the internet, fumble through catalog after catalog, or drive to the mall feverishly searching for that perfect something for a spouse, friend or a special child. We rush to get our cards written and get all the decorations up. It’s definitely a crazy, busy, exhausting time. Will all the gifts be beautifully wrapped, all the cookies and breads baked, and the menus perfected in time for the big day? My question is, what has happened to the season of Advent, the season of expectant, quiet waiting? We are reminded of it when we go to church and see the candles on the Advent wreath. But instead of being soothed by the thought of the coming of the Messiah, there’s sudden panic when the pink candle is lit, as we realize that there are only two weeks left to shop. Is there any way to put an end to this insanity? Are we, as Christians, fighting a losing battle with the retail mania mentality? I think not. There is still time, my friends, to pause, to be still, to embrace the gift of the present moment and become acutely aware of the “reason for the season”. This amazing time of year is filled with the presence of God all around us, if only we are open to receiving the Advent blessings He longs to pour out. The other morning, as I found my way meandering around the Kroger aisles, I received an unexpected one.
I ran into a man from my church who had recently lost the love of his life, his beloved wife of 54 years. He, too, was finding his way amid the other “seniors” who were there to get their weekly discount. I could hardly miss the pain and loneliness in his eyes. I asked how he was doing. He shrugged his shoulders and said he was doing ok. I knew that wasn’t true and proceeded to delve further. He opened up quite easily, I thought, and the stories began. I secretly placed my long grocery list in my pocket and gave him my full attention. As he spoke softly and lovingly of his spouse, I was transported into the depth of his feelings for her. The eyes that initially looked saddened suddenly brightened as he remembered and spoke of the wonderful trips they had taken together. Then they darkened once again as he told me of the suffering she had endured, especially in her last days. He seemed relieved to have someone to listen to these precious memories he was sharing. And I was aware that something that had to do with eternity was happening right there in aisle two. People passing us were like blurry visions but the sweet man’s face had a defined clarity about it and even a holiness. I knew this was one of those God appointments, and nothing else I had to do that day mattered. This was what it’s all about, I thought. It's funny, isn't it, how we think we are ministering to someone and then God changes it all around and you're the one who is being ministered to. I'm remembering the line from the prayer of St. Francis that says, "For it is in giving that we receive." This encounter, this unforgettable time of sharing, this peace I had in my heart, was a true Advent blessing, a true preparation for the blessed event we are soon to celebrate. Have you received your Advent blessing yet? Keep your eyes and ears open. It can happen in a most unusual place.