The season of Advent begins this coming Sunday. Our theme for this year is Essentials: Hope, Peace, Joy, Love, Immanuel, Epiphany. The first four on that list are the traditional themes of the four Sundays of Advent. We and other Mennonite churches often add the Sunday after Christmas (Immanuel) and Epiphany Sunday to make a six-week series that brings us into the new calendar year.
This year we’re approaching these themes through the lens of Essentials.
At the beginning of the pandemic we were introduced to a new phrase that soon became part of our everyday vocabulary – essential workers. These are the workers without whom our basic needs of food, functional shelter, health, and otherwise would not be met. Ironically, essential workers are often invisible, undervalued, and undercompensated.
For those with the life-space for inward reflection this has also been a time of asking about the essentials of our own life. Where, with whom, and towards what do I wish to focus my limited time and energy? What patterns and unquestioned habits am I ready to part with? What are the essentials around which I wish to shape my life?
Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love are a pretty good place to start.
During Advent, as we look toward the birth of Jesus, we remember that these spiritual qualities take form in the material world. Like Mary, our bodies ache with the burden of carrying life that must be born into this world. We seek solidarity with those who, like Elizabeth, have a spare room for our unknowing. And just as John invited people into the waters of baptism, we know that repentance looks like a whole new world coming into being within and around us. One in which essential workers are celebrated with honor and just compensation. One in which asylum seekers are granted safe shelter. One in which we cultivate inner depth. One in which we are free from the tyranny of a culture that would have us be too busy to prioritize any of this.
Because we continue to be a community living in between togetherness and apartness, CMC commissions and staff have created Advent-at-home bags for all households. If you don’t yet have a bag you can pick yours up this Sunday or someone will be delivering it to your door. We’ll incorporate some of the contents into Sunday worship and encourage households to use from them whatever assists in making your Advent about the essentials.
Until Sunday, I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with gratitude and large quantities of delicious food.