I spent a couple weeks doing nothing but eating and coughing, dealing with a mild case of covid. We came out of it just in time to host Thanksgiving dinner. Three days later, about the time I’d worked my way through most of the leftovers, I was scheduled to give a talk about Advent at an area church.
They didn’t give me a recommended dress code, but considering it was at a church and the Advent season, I thought a little respect was in order. I haven’t worn my suit in at least six months, but I’m an optimistic guy. Even though the only exercise I’ve managed this past month is opening the refrigerator door and eating ham, eggnog, and ibuprofen, I pulled it out of the closet and tried it on.
Drumroll please...I still got the trousers buttoned.
And people say we no longer live in a world of miracles.
The first time I worked on this I wrote, “the suit still fit.”
Even for me, that was a lie too far. I was presentable, but I wouldn’t have wanted to run to catch a bus. Or for that matter, pick something up off the floor.
Despite not daring to take a deep breath, it was a good day.
For one thing, these were my people. While I only knew a couple of them, everyone there felt like friends. I’ve never quite understood that secret. I’ve been in churches where designated greeters are responsible for making everyone feel welcome and the building still feels cold. Though I’d never been through the doors there, I felt warm and welcomed. It made me think of a line from the book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. “When you’re tightening a bolt there’s a difference between snug and tight, and if you don’t know the difference, you can’t be taught the difference.”
Exactly. A church can have all the focus groups and friendliness initiatives in the world, but you can’t fake friendship and camaraderie.
I’d put a lot of effort into my talk. I’ve been doing this long enough that you’d think I could whip up an Advent talk in no time, but apparently not. Part of it was really wanting to do a good job, part of it was that I was a little under the weather. And when I was working on it, I didn’t need to feel guilty about not doing anything more strenuous.
I’d chosen as the title “Light in a Season of Darkness” for two reasons. First, I’d started working on it at the same time we switched from Daylight Savings Time, and I badly wanted a little more light. Second, I’ve always loved Advent, the idea of preparing, of getting your head straight before something important happens. Abraham Lincoln once said, “If I had four hours to cut down a tree, I’d spend three of them sharpening my ax.”
I agree with that. It’s about leading an intentional life. Not a perfect life – I’ve made many decisions after long thought and contemplation that have been disasters.
In 490 AD, Saint Perpetuus started what we consider the Advent season. He saw it as a time of preparation, about being ready for everything that Christmas brings.
One of the things old Saint Perpetuus did was require the monks under his control to fast three days a week.
I can see how Jolly Old Saint Nick caught on, while Grouchy Old Saint Perpetuus isn’t too popular.
On the other hand, a little thought, a little contemplation, a little sacrifice and a little light.
It all leads to Christmas.
Copyright 2022 Brent Olson