Advent 2023–Make Space for Celebration


Now in that same region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for see, I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,

 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace among those whom he favors!”

 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them, and Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told them.

I have never been a patient participant in the Christmas season. I want to eat the gingerbread house before the frosting mortar has set, I want to turn on the lights before sunset, and I want to give gifts as soon as I buy them. It should come as no surprise that of all the characters in the Nativity scene, the shepherds are the only ones with whom I can imagine swapping places: the shepherds, who don’t have to wait forty long weeks like Mary between an angel’s promise and the birth of Jesus; the shepherds, who don’t have to wait like Joseph to see what this child will look like since it won’t share his genes; the shepherds, who don’t have to wait like the travelling Magi from the East as they traverse the continent following a star.  In the shepherds, I am reminded that the manger welcomes all who faithfully seek the Lord, whether they have been seeking long or not.

I offer this as good news for those of you who have difficulty sustaining the Christmas spirit from the first Christmas carols playing in November or even from the first Sunday of Advent. I offer this as good news for those of you who started this season excited for Christmas but whose excitement has waned due to struggles, frustrations, or sorrow over the past days. I offer this as good news for those of you who haven’t had time, energy, or attention to process Advent until Christmas Eve. There is still time and space for celebration.  You may feel like you are far away in a field by yourself these days, but you are closer to the manger than you could ever expect. The angels of heaven are inviting you in now. Come and see that God is with us!

Breathe in as you pray the first line.

Breathe out as you pray the bold text.

Emmanuel, God is with us!

Hallelujah, praise the LORD!

Advent Practices

Take a digital Sabbath for an hour.  Put away your phone, turn off the tv, and take a break from whatever else distracts you from where you are so that you can participate in the celebration around you.

Offer to turn on the Christmas lights or light the candles. Remember that today is beautiful.

Call a friend and wish them a Merry Christmas. Remember that we are united in our hope today!

Rev. Colin Kroll, Director of Vocation and Leadership