Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.  -Romans 13:12

I love celebrating New Years at a different time than most of the world.  The new church year begins this Sunday on the first Sunday of Advent. The colors on the altar will move from green to Advent blue, our service music and Eucharistic prayer will shift and we will begin hearing Scripture from Lectionary Year A.  While we usually think of January 1 as the big day to make resolutions and to welcome the possibility of something new entering into our lives - in the church, we get to enter into that anticipation over a month earlier.

And the season of Advent is all about anticipation - of waiting for an arrival - of newness, or fresh insight, or revelation.  It is a season of preparation, and it is also a season of shining our light out in the darkness, like a sentinel does when awaiting the arrival of an important guest.  It's a season of being awake and ready for the arrival of Christ in new and sometimes surprising ways. 

Maybe, like me, when you are expecting a guest in your home, you clean.  When someone is coming to visit, I run around the house getting rid of the clutter, putting things in place, making sure the sheets are clean and doing some dusting and vacuuming.  I also like to get whatever I can done and ready so that I am emotionally and spiritually ready to receive my guests without having to worry about things I still haven't gotten to.  This is an important aspect of good hospitality - preparing in order that my guests will find my home - and me - ready to receive them.

In the same way, Advent is a time of preparation for the arrival of Christ into your life in a new way in the coming year.  We make ready for another layer of the onion to be revealed.  There are always new depths to plumb in our relationships with God, others and self.  Advent invites us to prepare ourselves to enter more deeply into life, relationships and faith practices.

Those of us living in the Northern Hemisphere have the advantage of Advent falling neatly into the time of year when days are getting shorter and the nights longer.  Keeping our light shining takes on literal meaning for us in these colder, darker days.  And in our country, anger and divisions are making our world seem darker in more ways than just one.  Our Advent prayers this year will help us prepare to put on the armor of light even as people are fearfully building many walls.

So there is all the more reason to take extra time this Advent to just sit with a cup of tea and listen to the silence of winter approaching, or to read a passage of Scripture each day, or take some intentional time to pray for others.  Outside of our prayer time, we are all too aware that the world is often frantically preparing for holiday entertaining and gift giving.  I invite you to take a deep breath this Advent season and keep watch for unnecessary stresses in your life, whether from consumer pressures or distressing newscasts.  How can you take time out from the stresses of the season and welcome the light?  I invite you to find some new ways to take time out for returning and rest this Advent - choosing to make meaningful connections with God, loved ones and those in need rather than running yourself ragged with holiday cheer or fueling the anger and fear the world so wants us to buy into lately.  Our armor of light - the light of God's love that we share with others - is far brighter and more lasting than any holiday bulbs or tinsel, and cannot be overcome by darkness.

Come shine your light and use your voices for praise at our annual Advent Lessons and Carols service this Sunday at 10.  We'll keep the light on for you.

This Sunday's readings are HERE