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Hallo again to all.

We must confess it wasn't until this past Thursday that we first set up and lit our Advent wreath. We'd had the candles neatly out of their wrappers next to the candleholder, and a garland of greenery on our front porch. We'd had it on our minds for a few days that it was time to move to Advent in our home, but everything seemed too cluttered. We just weren't ready. The far side of the dining room table was filled with unpacked groceries and odds and ends from a busy week and travel. An autumn colored table cloth sat atop the table. The table seemed to share our memory of the plea from a few weeks ago to savour autumn and not rush in to Advent.

We find it interesting how, after finding ways to stop ourselves from rushing into Advent, and being surprised at its advancing, how slow we were to stop the forward momentum of Ordinary time and turn towards the extraordinary. As with so many other things in our life, we didn't leave time to prepare. We suppose we were distracted with our secular jobs and family concerns, world events, protests, and travel — things that made stopping for a few minutes to move towards the season seem bothersome and perhaps as an ill use of time.

There has, of late, been much discourse on the value of human life, and many have begun to revisit issues of whether all lives are valued equally. While we offer no opinion on the legal proceedings which dismissed further action against police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others, it has brought the epidemic of the deaths of young unarmed black men — an often overlooked demographic — and a failure to indict those who killed them to public attention worldwide. Protesters have filled the streets and highways have been blocked in cities across the United States. As these deaths have gathered more attention, we think of more cases of lives undervalued — the Nigerian girls who were kidnapped earlier this year, the thousands in slavery across the world, the brutal deaths of ISIS hostages, and a general feeling of hopelessness and paralysis.

We want to turn towards Advent in hopeful expectation of the birth of the Christ child. The birth of another whose life was not valued, for whom there was no room at the inn; who was sought after by King Herod; who was executed; who was born to die; who made the ultimate sacrifice with the promise of salvation to all. But when reminded of this, that promise seems like little comfort and focusing on it like a misplaced use of time. Yet we are called to find comfort in it, or if not comfort, relying on trust and garnering strength and rejoicing, regardless. In Madeline L'Engle's poem First Coming she writes:

He did not wait till the world was ready,
till men and nations were at peace.
He came when the Heavens were unsteady,
and prisoners cried out for release.

He did not wait for the perfect time.
He came when the need was deep and great.
He dined with sinners in all their grime,
turned water into wine. He did not wait

till hearts were pure. In joy he came
to a tarnished world of sin and doubt.
To a world like ours, of anguished shame
he came, and his Light would not go out.

He came to a world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

At some point in the midst of this flurry we realized that not only should we set up, light, and pray with our Advent wreath, but that we would be better off for it. Well, we cleared off the table and by the Friday of the first week in Advent, we sat at the dinner table eating to the glow of the one lit violet candle. Of course it didn't fix a world of inequality and violence. It did make us stop, and pray, and worship, and rejoice, and filled us with hope to move forward.

Next week we will gather with others and make our Christingle, and then soon it will be Christmas. The once-rejected Christ child will again be added to the crèche on our bookshelf, surrounded by animals, watched over by an angel with a chipped wing, and then it will be Epiphany and all will be swept away. But for now, we take solace in the two violet candles burning in front of us as we write and remember that while we can never quite be prepared for Christmas, we can slow down, breathe, rejoice and hope.

See you next week.

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7 December 2014

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