Turn. Learn. Pray. Worship. Bless. Go. Rest. These seven pillars of the Episcopal Church’s Way of Love are so appropriate to apply to this beautiful and hopeful season of Advent.
The church calendar naturally invites us to stop and turn to face the nativity in the season of Advent. We turn slowly as we follow Mary on her journey—from the archangel’s announcement to the journey to Bethlehem, to the birth of the incarnate Christ in the stable. And we are called to direct the attention of others to this scene as well, to announce this most wondrous arrival to others; to be angels swooping down on a field of shepherds. It is in the manger that we see the face of hope, the face of love, the face of God. It is a face that looks like ours, wholly human, and still wholly holy. Unparalleled to behold, and yet, still so familiar.
This is the time where our opportunities for learning and prayer can focus themselves on the world and issues at hand. Advent invites us to hold what we know about this world and what we have yet to discover in the same space. To anticipate the birth of a baby whose death and resurrection have already set us free from death and the grave, and whose return keeps us ever gazing on the horizon. We pray for an end to violence, an end to hunger, an end to suffering, for God to usher in God’s final and finest hour—for the Advent of the Kingdom Come.
Worship is a steady and reliable pillar of the Way of Love, because the main reason we show up to church every Sunday is to participate in worship. The way the church is used by the people under the leadership of the clergy should always point to the cross. It is, of course, impossible for the church to point to the cross without first pointing to the manger, to the moment of incarnation; the moment the world would cease to be what it was.
We bless one another any time we have the opportunity to serve or be served. Some of the best advice I’ve ever received was the insistence that I allow another person to serve me or offer a gift or blessing to me, because in giving that permission, I was returning the blessing immediately. The holidays are made up of moments for these such opportunities. When you put your dollars in red buckets or give your time to serve the underfed, doesn’t that blessing return back to you in your sense of peace and good work? Advent is a season built for the abundance of blessing, and I encourage you to recognize those moments as they happen.
It is in the blessing that we also find our calling as Christians to “go and do likewise.” Jesus calls us again and again to follow him. We are commissioned every Sunday to exit the church and enter the mission field, and in Advent, we find ourselves called to work and service for those whose lives are lived outside, for those who go without food or other life-sustaining necessities. There are many ways in which you can get involved this season, from the Angel Tree that supports Episcopal City Mission, to Circle of Concern, or Trinity Food Pantry. A season of gift-giving must also be a season of selfless giving.
Rest seems almost futile in all of our going and doing, but this also is a season in which we must find time in our lives to just be still and rest in the peace of God that surpasses all human understanding. The best tool we have in our self-care bag is a ready-to-use plan for rest. It is in our rest that we make room for God to come in and do God’s best work: restoration, revitalization, reunification. This is why God came down in the first place.
It is my deepest hope that this season of Advent marks the beginning of a fruitful and Spirit filled church year at St. Timothy’s. I am honored that this important calendar year in my life will come to a close with you all, and that we will begin together the next year of love and ministry that is so unique to this parish and to these people. I invite you to attend all of the wonderful things that St. Tim’s is doing this season, and to find opportunities to remember the seven pillars of the Way of Love, and to also actively seek opportunities for invitation, to welcome those you haven’t met with charity and interest, and to make connections between people and their gifts and the fields of ministry for which laborers are few. May the peace of God enter your homes and your hearts as we welcome the new church year and say goodbye to the decade.
With gratitude and joy,
The Reverend Camie Dewey