This week, we light the Advent candle of LOVE. God's love is so deep and so wide, far beyond our ability to comprehend it. And yet if we are awake to it, we can sense this love that surrounds us on every side - beneath us, above us, in front of us and behind us. For there is nowhere we can go where God's presence is not already there. God is always present to us, even when we are far from present to God. And this is the greatest gift (present) of all! God, our Emmanuel, is with us.
But I have to admit, I feel a little stressed this week. The pressure of all the preparations -- of work and family and the holiday. It's all fun but it also requires energy, time and imagination. I am needing more than ever to feel God with me.
These days I notice we are not so big on presence. Meaning, our faces are glued to screens and distracted by incoming notifications, texts and emails. And we are often too busy to listen, to slow down, to pay attention and to receive the gift of the other. Often, we can be physically together and yet still fail to show up for one another. If you are around teenagers, you will notice that they will text each other back and forth even when they are sitting in the same room! So this idea of presence is becoming increasingly difficult.
And yet I believe that this is what Christmas invites us to. To awaken from the self-absorption and busyness of our own lives, to be present. To God and to our neighbor. To our family and to the stranger. To be with another.
Last night, after we shared a community meal and went caroling through the neighborhood, we returned home and the crowd thinned. There was a bunch of clean up to be done, but a friend (who was a stranger just a few months ago) stayed around and offered some cider and what ensued was a lesson in presence. We invited our 17-year-old daughter and 20-year-old son down to join us and we ended up having the sweetest conversation. About life, relationships, longings. It was beautiful. Sure the mess always awaits us but so does the glory. If we are only awake to see it.
This is what it is to be fully present. To turn away from the tasks and slow down - just long enough to experience the gift of the other. To listen deeply to their stories. For it is almost impossible to distinguish being listened to from being loved. To be curious and to seek to understand. To see with new eyes and to be moved with compassion. Christ showed us the way.
This Sunday, we will celebrate this Love come in the flesh and this beautiful God who's greatest promise is to be with us, to be present to us. And my prayer for you this week is that you would awaken to the gift of your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors, perhaps even a stranger or two; and that you would be present to them, even as Christ is present to you.
by Jessica Ketola