An Advent Reflection By Mark L. Vincent
An Advent Reflection for Steward Leaders
The acts of worship in which we engage during Advent are also ways we remember. But what exactly are we remembering?
White tulips were Lorie’s favorite flower. We had hundreds of long-stemmed ones at her standing-room-only memorial service that people could take home in her memory.
She’s been gone six years now. I’m happily remarried, deliriously so, but our thirty-one years of being the best of friends, tuned-in to each other’s bodies and ways of living, and raising children to adulthood mean that grief remains. I can’t prepare for when it comes roaring back, and I can’t protect myself from the raw emotion. Why would I want to?
I stumbled across a little ceramic case tucked away in a larger box not long ago. I had never seen it before. Whenever I gave Lorie flowers, I included a note expressing my love for her. That specific category of love notes is what Lorie placed in this box. And on the top, a dried blossom of the first white tulip I’d given her. Perhaps you can imagine my response.
Grief is not lessened with time. Sometimes it is more intensely felt, maybe because the moment of a discovery like this is quieter than the overwhelming moments of a loved one’s passing. So much requires attention when the grieved have little attention to give. The stronger waves of grief might come later than they do on the day of death.
There is a sweeter side to this. Being reminded of loss puts me back in touch with the gift of something extraordinary, loving, and rare that I got to experience for the decades of my adult life. The gift of life with Lorie equipped me to face the choices of what I did next and do now.
My Hope for You
My hope for steward leaders everywhere is that the message of peace on earth and goodwill to everyone is not just one we appreciate personally. May we also become more deeply in touch with the profound, world-shaping action of God that stirred a young virgin, an old priest, and the hosts of heaven into song. But even more, it is a message that moved shepherds and magi to reshape their work to come and see the king of heaven. And still more, a threat to empire willing to massacre infants in order to retain power.
Gathering around the Lord’s table, kneeling at a creche, receiving the gifts of bread and wine, all are symbols of a profound expression of love, deeper than a pressed white tulip. It mixes the man of sorrows acquainted with grief with the shout of glory to God in the highest. It grounds us. It focuses us. If we let it.
Our Mission – His Mission
The mission of the organizations we serve is tied to this intervention of God, the most profound mission of all. It rescues the enslaved, restores sight to the blind, sets prisoners free, provides for widows and orphans, visits the sick, and restores broken people and relationships. It is served by people from every tribe, language, and nation. We do it because our sins — and they are many — are forgiven. We do it because our sincere repentance was touched by God’s mercy offered to all.
We hold our steward roles within this grace. It brings the institutions we serve into being. This grace, receiving it and thereby offering it, is our most resounding why.
And now, here is our challenge. How are we pointing to and calling upon this well of joy-filled sorrow among those we are entrusted to lead?
As we roll into yet another climate-changing, culture-fighting, and pandemic-laden year, we need to tap our joyful weeping, our dancing on injustice, our wounded healing once more.
We start with knees bent in sorrowful and awe-filled reverence, combined with arms raised in a joyful offering to the Creator. The wonders of his love then begin to pour into the hearts which have prepared him room. And then, heaven and nature start to sing.
p.s. Do you need music to help you feel the perspective about which I’m trying to write. The faith tradition that formed me has recently been celebrating this trio (A Girl Named Tom) that won the Voice. Give yourself a few minutes to absorb the message of this carol.
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