Enjoy. Appreciate. Love. Learn. Be with. All of us need some periods of our life that are slower than the break-neck pace we usually proceed at, and in the church, thats what Advent is for. Like so many others, Lydia and I had a perfect start to the Advent season when we went to the Grinnell Choir Festival the first Sunday of Advent. As we sat there, all I felt was appreciation, enjoyment, and presence presence of peo- ple I love, and presence of God.
More than anything, though, I was struck by the sheer gift of it all. I was reminded what it feels like to re- ceive gifts gifts like the ones we should all try to give on Christmas. I knew that the people there from all the churches were singing for us, not because they were getting anything in return. I knew how much work went into organizing it all, and that it all started as a pure labor of love.In other words, I knew it was all done completely out of a love for God, music, and the community. As I sat there, I had nothing to offer, and could only take it all in receive the gift.
I also found myself enormously grateful to be the pastor of First Presbyterian watching how much the people of our congregation put into this. Al Ricks and Sara McCue were on the planning committee, we had one of the largest choir members/church members ratio, a bunch of people stepped up and filled in around the edges for things like ushering (thanks Dennis) and finding the perfect readings (thanks Sara). And, of course, Mary Fopma pulled it all together not just for our choir, which she always does, but for the whole event. Mary was the inspiration, the main organizer, the recruiter, and the backbone of the whole thing. Im sure people were amazed at her talent and her commitment, just like we are every single week. Gift true gift.
So often, I hear people talk about the true meaning of Christmas,and I often talk about how Advent is a way to not just rush into Christmas without reflecting on its meaning. How ironic that my first, and likely my best, Christmas present this year came on the First Sunday of Advent. Thanks to all of you who made that happen!