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The siren call since the week before Thanksgiving beckons us to hurry and save on all our holiday purchases, for surely there will be many. Jolly, sentimental carols play on the radio and in stores, and the light-trimmed houses and buildings illuminate the streets and town squares on these increasingly long, cold nights. Reminding us our time is running out, a countdown to Dec. 25 lurks around every corner -- I even saw a decoration above a garage! -- but what exactly are we preparing for and racing toward?

Our lives of faith are so characteristically marked by a journey, and the season leading toward Christmas is no exception. The season of Advent, however, isn't a race against the clock or other consumers; Advent is a time to be present and aware in the darkness as we anticipate the coming of the Light of the world. We open the little doors or flaps of our Advent calendars one day at a time. We light the candles of our Advent wreaths one per week and watch the flickering flame. We wait, and in the waiting, we listen to the words of those who proclaim what is to come -- words from prophets foretelling the birth of the Son of Man, words of humble servants making way for the will of God, and words of psalmists reminding us what joy and happiness there is in continuing on this journey of faith, despite whatever trials or persecutions arise.

In the waiting, too, we give ourselves time to ponder what on earth this ancient story has to do with our lives today. For me this means not rushing into the madness of consumer frenzy, turning down the noise of distractions, and turning up my awareness of our surroundings: It's a time to nest.

Mary, heavy with child, did what any wise soul would tell a mother not to do -- go on long trip away from home. Typically, the last weeks of a pregnancy are marked by a time of nesting, of cleaning and organizing to get the home just so before welcoming the newest member of the family. When I pull out our decorations and place them lovingly around our home, I am flooded not only by the memories of our own family but also by the tenderness of a holy day that has always been marked by love and generosity. With our decorations, celebrations and traditions, we are preparing our hearts and homes to receive the gift of Christ, and it's this gift that we anticipate throughout the season.

Taking the time to slow down into a centeredness grounded in love and hopeful expectation has a way of opening our hearts and minds to be present and aware. This non-anxious way of being runs contrary to the hustle and bustle we're guided toward, but it is exactly the kind of presence that helps us see how God breaks into our lives more than once a year. We need this time to pause, deliberate and listen so that we do not miss the guiding star and lose ourselves in mindless, numbing consumption. Running full steam ahead toward a day of materialistic hopes and expectations tends to set us up for disappointment, but Advent invites us to prepare ourselves, to be fully present with one another, and to realize that what we really need is both already here and still yet to be.

Rev. Sara Milford serves as Vicar of All Saints' Episcopal Church/Todos los Santos Iglesia Episcopal in Bentonville and looks forward to having her four children all home for Christmas.

NAN Religion on 12/08/2018

Print Headline: Beyond holiday buying

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