Advent/Christmas 2017 letter from the Dean

Nov 5, 2017     Category: Uncategorized

The Dean’s letter for Advent/Christmas 2017

A Sunday School teacher once explained Advent to our class back in the 1960s along these lines: “Advent is four weeks long and it’s about shopping . You go and it’s about getting for this one and that one, and taking and getting and wrapping. Your hands are always going like this, like a crow (imagine the movements of a very busy crow.)  You get gifts, the food, the wrapping, put up lights and put up guests. But at Christmas you get to just put your hands out and receive. That’s why you get presents then.”

Occasionally I recall the Advent/ crows connection as I hurry about in the mall, but  I have always remembered that simple way of explaining Christmas: receiving.  Many of us, including myself, have always struggled with receiving things or comments. Our society would seem to be very good at taking and getting and acquiring but that is not the same as receiving.  In truth, we especially struggle to receive all God wishes to share with us. We need to learn how to receive the Gift given to us or the gifts, material or others, shared with us.  I would encourage you to ask or to think about what God wishes to share with you and to pray for the grace to receive it.

A good starting point here is go easy on yourselves during this season. .  We plan and organize so much and often we create unreasonable hopes and expectations which set us up for disappointment.  We try so hard to determine what we will receive.  Rather than try to control or predict what will take place or what you receive,  see how God breaks into unplanned moments.  Events which did not go well often reveal grace, humor, and deeper things which inform our lives.  Quiet and random moments may reveal a presence and peace not our own.  Broken ornaments or an appetizer that didn’t turn out may remind us of what truly matters.

Christmas is beyond our control. Ask Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, or the magi in the biblical accounts of the Nativity.   Look back on your own life and you will see that  many of our most formative moments were absolute gifts. We did not ask for them and may not have been ready for them, but God used them nonetheless.   All we are asked to do is make room for them and to receive with God’s grace.  May God bless you this season and give you the grace to receive whatever He offers you.

In Christ,   Neil

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