It’s the final rush of days to Christmas when we easily feel overwhelmed by the avalanche of things we may need to do, or wish we had the energy or time to do. That frenetic busyness (wether physical or mental) often leads us to thoughts of self: fatigue, anxiety, fear, resentment, regret. This is after all a holy day in which we celebrate that God comes to us uninvited in the baby Jesus. It’s so hard to wait when we fear unexpected guests, interrupted plans, or inadequate time to do what we want.
My thought for the day is about how generosity is an antidote to fear. When you practice generosity toward yourself and others, fear loosens its grip. Generosity in this case means gratitude and acceptance for who we are and what is. After all, it takes less energy to relax and release than it does to clench and hold on, or to attempt to control or manipulate others or the environment.
My invitation to you is to do something for someone else today. I’m not talking about what you already planned, anticipated or prepared for. I’m talking about the unexpected, the uninvited, the moment when you are interrupted or invited to turn from your plans to serve someone else. Be generous with your time and energy. Say hello to someone in a line with you. Take a moment to greet someone tenderly in your rush of completing things at work. Offer a helping hand to someone on your path: reaching for a napkin in a café, struggling to grasp an item from a shelf, even merely authentically greeting someone on the street in need (you can give too!) It’s not just an action that is kind, generous, loving and an antidote to fear, which brings us out of our deep seated mistrust of others, ourselves and God. It might be the seed that births your very own “Christmas Story.”
In an essay on Advent Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes about how Advent is the season of waiting, self-examination, awaiting the final Advent when Christ shall come again. Theologically it’s called the Day of the Lord, depicted as a moment of judgment. Historically it’s most often be associated with a day of fear, destruction and annihilation. Yet Jesus came not on a machine gun armed tank, or with a scourge and angry crowd, but united, with the small steps of a baby, and the clear voice of a crying infant, dependent upon others for love and survival.
One day at the last judgment, [Jesus] we separate the sheep and the goats and will say to those on his right: “Come, you blessed…I was hungry and you fed me…” (Matthew 25:34). To the astonished question of when and where, he answered: “what you did to the least of these, you have done to me…” (Matthew 25:40). With that we are faced with the shocking reality: Jesus stands at the door and knocks, in complete reality. He asks you for help in the form of a beggar, in the form of a ruined human being in torn clothing. He confronts you in every person that you meet. Christ walks on the earth as your neighbor as long as there are people. He walks on the earth as the one through whom God calls you, speaks to you and makes his demands. That is the greatest seriousness and the greatest blessedness of the Advent message. Christ stands a the door. He live in the form of the person in our midst. Will you keep the door locked or open it to him?
Christ is still knocking. It is not yet Christmas. But it is also not the great final Advent, the final coming of Christ. Through all the Advents of our life that we celebrate goest the longing for the final Advent, where it says: “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelations 21:5). Advent is a time of waiting. Our whole life, however, is Advent – that is, a time of waiting for the ultimate, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth, when all people are brothers and sisters and one rejoices int he words of the angles: “On earth peace to those on whom God’s favor rests.” Learn to wait, because he has promised to come. “I stand at the door…” We however call to him: “Yes, come soon, Lord Jesus!” Amen.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in Watch for the Light. Readings for Advent and Christmas