A few weeks ago, I had the joy of ringing the bell for the Salvation Army over a busy hour from 5:00 pm to 6:00 pm. A few shoppers were on a mission, and their pace and face told the tale: time was short, the day was far from over, and dinner needed to be served. Been there, done that. More than a few shoppers stopped on the way out of the store and provided a donation. I thanked and wished each one a Merry Christmas. Several people asked me if the collection had started earlier than usual this year. I said I didn’t know. All I knew was that I ringing the bell a bit earlier than in previous years, then I remembered I had donated to a kettle at the mall a few days earlier. At one point during that hour, I recalled all I needed to do by Christmas, wished I’d been able to start earlier, and began entering the Advent Season.
Advent is a church season. It begins four Sundays before Christmas, and it ends on Christmas Eve. Advent reminds us God gets the last word, calls us to change our ways around to the God’s ways, invites us out of our shame and into the joy of God’s life, and embraces us in the love that brings Christ into our lives.
Advent engages us. We deck the sanctuary with a Christmas tree. We light candles on a wreath. A nativity greets us outside and inside the church sanctuary. There are cookies to deliver to truckers, gifts to drop off at New Hope Ministries, cards to send, carols to share, gatherings to celebrate, candles and services to prepare. Advent is a season that so involves us all, we sometimes lose the reason for the season.
Then, it happened. Not once, but twice, and maybe thrice.
A child sees the red kettle, hears the bell ringing, and wonders what this strange sight and sound is about. Then, as their family heads for home, the child comes to the kettle, drops their gift into the kettle, and the glow on each child’s face tells the joy of giving, the wonders of God’s love, the peace Christ brings, and imprints on our hearts the reason for the season God spoke years ago: The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. (Isaiah 11:6)
May that promise be yours this and every Christmas.