What did you want for Christmas this year? I’ll admit I had a pretty extensive list of wishes for things that I can’t really afford, don’t need, and am just fine without. But as I moved through Advent I found in reading so many scriptures that tell us that the coming of Christ looks like nothing other than a turning of the world on its head, and which challenge us to love neighbor truly and fully as self, that my true wish list, my deep wish list, was not for objects or material possessions, but for more important things. For my neighbors I wish for relationships that are honest, real, whole, healthy, positive, and life-giving. For the people of our community I wish for healing from physical, emotional or spiritual distress. For the world I wish for peace, compassion, generosity, understanding, grace, wisdom, courage, justice and discernment. And then I found that I was wishing for these things for myself, too. I wish for the relationships in my life to be honest, real, whole, healthy, positive, and life-giving. I wish for healing for myself, my family, the church, the community from distress. I wish for clarity in decision making, and the strength to make necessary decisions and necessary changes. I wish for the serenity to accept the things I could not change, the strength to change the things I could and the wisdom to know the difference. I wish for courage, justice, grace, compassion, and forgiveness both towards others and towards myself. These gifts – the real gifts that we yearn for, wish for beyond all else, these gifts come from God.
And so this Advent and Christmas I was more intentional about praying for the things I believe we are called to pray for, for our neighbors, for the world and for myself. And when I did, when I sat in silence, asking God for God’s guidance and reign of love to come for all people, and then listened, I found guidance. I am not always given the strength right away to act on that guidance, but God’s timing is better than my own. When I continue to pray, when I continue to ask, when I continue to listen, when I continue in relationship with God, the directions that I am given that I sometimes feel I lack the strength to follow, eventually become…well, not easy, but doable, necessary, inevitable. I find myself doing the very thing that days before I knew was impossible for me to do. I find myself stepping towards wholeness when I was certain it could not be found. I have a little more patience with the people in my family who need my attention and care. I have a deeper appreciation and respect for those who are trying, as I am, to live their faith to the fullest. I see needs I never saw before, and more, I see ways to respond to those needs. And finally I find I am able to step away from hurtful or destructive things that I cannot change, trusting God to take care of them, to heal them, to transform them into new life.
This Advent we again offered Monday evening Taize services as a time for intentional prayer and meditation. I am so grateful for those times of prayer and meditation and to those who joined me. I am even more grateful to God, who also shows up every time I pray to listen, to communicate, to be present, to be in relationship with us. Our relationships with God are the beginning of the answer to all of the desires on my real Christmas wish list. And for that I am eternally grateful.