During our first year in Oaxaca in 2011, we discovered that only one Covenant church had a Christmas service. That church was new to the Covenant, and it ended up becoming our church home, Amparo y Fortaleza. Several conversations with Oaxacan pactistas (Covenanters) helped us understand that most evangelical churches do not celebrate Christmas, let alone Advent, because they see it as something that only the Catholic church does. However, we discovered our church was very open to learning more about the church calendar, and so last year I proposed to our pastor that we celebrate Advent. It was received so well that he asked me to coordinate it again this year. It has been exciting to see the families and children of our church participating during the Advent services.
Advent has always been a special time for me personally, and for us as a family, to reflect on how Christ is always coming to us, in our children, in those who are suffering, in the beauty of creation that surrounds us here in Oaxaca, even in our difficult circumstances or relationships, Christ is always present. As Richard Rohr says in a meditation on Advent, “You see, Christ is always coming; God is always present. It’s we who aren’t! We’re always somewhere else, at least I often am. Jesus tells us to be conscious, to be awake, to be alert, to be alive. It’s the key to all spirituality, because that is the one thing we aren’t. Be honest. Most of us live on cruise control. We just go through the motions of our daily routines. We wake up and we repeat what we did the day before, and we’re upset if there are any interruptions”. Advent is a call to be aware of how Christ is constantly showing up in our lives, and it has been a joy to share this tradition with our church family. We ended the service at our house with an early Christmas feast of Swedish meatballs, rice pudding and many other things everyone brought to share!
This year I had the added joy of sharing this tradition with the group of women with whom Patty and I meet every other week. Together, we reflected on the meaning of each candle in the Advent wreath: hope, peace, joy, love and Christ and God’s calling for us to allow Christ to shine through us in the middle of sin and darkness in our homes, communities and world. The Holy Spirit was indeed speaking to us all!
And, of course, we continue to anticipate the coming of Christ as a family as we light the Advent candles and sing together “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel”.
May we all experience the hope, peace, joy and love that the coming of Christ brings this Christmas season.
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