Words for the season, for holding closely in your heart and your head
Posted in , Nov 18, 2021
Advent’s coming. The very word means “coming.” No sooner have we finished off the turkey leftovers and stuffing than we celebrate this miraculous coming.
In my childhood we had an Advent calendar and opened a window every day until we came to the last BIG window which showed Mary and Joseph and the baby in the manger.
With each window there was a Bible verse, 24 of them in all. This year for Advent I’ve decided to hold just two very special verses in my heart and head.
1) You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30). Don’t you love how Jesus breaks it down into four special arenas of love. I’m almost tempted to gesture to each of them.
My heart. He’s not just talking about that vital organ that circulates my blood and keeps me alive with every beat. It’s also the symbolic home of my affections, passions, cares, concerns, values, everything that makes me wake up in morning, ready to start my day.
My soul. How do you gesture to the soul? It seems even bigger than the body or any part of it. It’s that part of us that existed before we were born and outlasts us. Beyond time. To love God with my soul means embracing the God and the God I see in everyone else.
My mind. Yes, our minds. Our intellect, our knowledge, our cognitive abilities. To love God, we don’t leave our minds at the door. We use them. We expand them. We celebrate them. We read, we go to Bible studies, we listen, we learn, we grow. Constantly.
My strength. Faith can seem like it’s just an airy, heady thing. Not at all. Jesus reminds us that we have strength inside and out. I go to the gym. I lift weights. I go for a jog. And I turn to God to keep strong in my commitments and loyalties. The sole source of strength.
2) You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). The “as yourself” is the part that’s easy to forget. Thinking about others is great for the mindless muddle of self-absorption. Not just caring but doing. I get into trouble though when I’m so busy doing, turning myself into a sacrificial lamb—with an element of self-congratulation—that I forget to do for myself.
Advent offers us opportunities for both. We shop for others. We buy gifts. We think of that perfect thing they’d never think of for themselves. We decorate the house. We set up a crèche. We put out the figures around it. We listen to carols and sing them.
And we remember the love that sets all of this in motion. The love of God that enables us to love ourselves and others. See what’s coming and has come. Welcome it yourself. Happy Advent.