Advent Christmas liturgical seasons

Christmas Eve: Awaken to the Present

Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20

Here we are. It’s December 24, Christmas Eve. The day we have awaited is almost here! Whatever this season of Advent has been like for you, Christmas Eve is here. Tonight, we will celebrate Christ’s birth.

Take a deep breath. Scan your body. What does it feel like? Look around you. Where are you? What feelings do this place and this day evoke in you? As you reflect on this Advent season, what are you aware of? How did you experience God in these weeks preceding Christmas? In what ways were you awakened to God in this season? How are you aware of God right now, in this moment?

I’ll get personal here. My previous Advent reflections were written in October, long before Advent, but this one is being written in real time.

As I reflect on this Advent season, I am grateful. This Advent, I took things slowly. I didn’t do too much. I listened to my body, I paid attention to God, and I focused on what was in front of me. I savored the season of Advent, the gradual buildup to this day. Practicing awakening to God was a gift that helped me to remain oriented in this season.

As I reflect on the themes of awakening to the promise, to expectation, to abundance, and to wonder – I am amazed at God’s grace. This was not an easy Advent season. Our 3-year-old daughter was exposed to COVID at school (but thankfully, did not become ill). My dad was hospitalized in mid-December and will not be home for Christmas. This Advent was full of challenges and concern for loved ones. And yet, each week I was awakened to God in a new way:

Week 1: Awaken to the Promise – As I reflected on God’s promises, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness in bringing comfort and peace when we need it most.

Week 2: Awaken to Expectation – As I awakened to expectation, God’s grace became tangible in the form of roses blooming and tomato plants still producing fruit in December, both totally unexpected.

Week 3: Awaken to Abundance – As I focused on abundance, I was sustained by the generous love and care of friends during a week when it would have been easy to become consumed by scarcity.

Week 4: Awaken to Wonder – As I sought to experience wonder, I was delighted by the gift of play and the creativity of our 7-year-old daughter.

Now that it’s Christmas Eve, I am practicing being present to this day, to what is, not to what I wish could be. I pray that you, also, can be present this day and throughout the entire season of Christmas, to what is…the sacrament of the present moment is God in our midst. And that is exactly what we will celebrate tonight – the birth of Emmanuel, God WITH us.

That statement is in the present tense because Jesus is present, here with us and within us now. Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and our awareness of God with us enables that light to shine even brighter. May you be present and aware, fully awake to God in our midst this day, and in the days to come. And whether through candlelight in the midst of darkness or the sunrise of a new day, may you rest in the reminder that the light is here, in this moment, and will always be. That is the best present that we could possibly ask for.

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