There are many stories or legends around Christmas, the arrival of the Christ child, and gift givers who missed the opportunity to worship at His birth.
Part of Italy’s traditional celebration is the story of a witch known as La Befana who arrives on her broomstick during the night of January 5 and fills the stockings with toys and sweets for the good children and lumps of coal for the bad ones.
According to the legend, the night before the Wise Men arrived at the manger they stopped at the shack of an old woman to ask directions. They invited her to come along but she replied that she was too busy. Then a shepherd asked her to join him but again she refused. Later that night, she saw a great light in the sky and decided to join the Wise Men and the shepherd bearing gifts that had belonged to her child who had died. She got lost and never found the manger.
Now La Befana flies around on her broomstick each year on the 11th night, bringing gifts to children in hopes that she might find the Baby Jesus. So in Italy, children hang their stockings on the evening of January 5 awaiting the visit of La Befana.
Legend or not, the story is a salutary reminder to us not to allow ourselves to get so caught up in the “busyness” of life and preparations for Christmas, that we miss the Christ child himself. For me this means making a conscious effort to look for the Christ in the face of each person I meet… May you find Him in unexpected places and know the true joy of Christmas!
Advent is here. And I’ve got to admit that I am already over the doomsday or apocalyptic readings and dire warnings of judgment. Its not that I don’t believe in judgment, or that Jesus has a right to make such judgment… but I am truly sick of the fire and brimstone stuff in our daily readings. Personally I have a desire to rejoice in preparations for the birth of the King! I want to embrace the hope and wonder of His coming into the world and I want to share it with others.
J. Mary Luti, retired seminary professor and United Church of Christ pastor writing (as a preachr herself) at her blog, Sicut Loutus Est says that she suffers “an uneasy sense that we forget ourselves and the gospel when we routinely rant about the consumerist society in which we live, and by implication, deride and condemn everyone who participates in pre-Christmas ceremonies of buying and selling. I’m simply getting tired of listening to sermons in Advent that draw a sharp line between the bad world of getting and spending which barely acknowledges or even notices the reason for the season, and another good world in which none of that goes on and into which Jesus can be born properly, cleanly, to the sound of angels singing, not cash registers ringing… … And why, at precisely the season when people are paying attention to the Story of a savior, of God’s love, of peace and justice and love—when secular people are paying attention, in their Hallmark, Santa Claus kind of way; not the way we might want them to, not necessarily in a churchy sort of way; but paying attention to the Story nonetheless, and with hearts softened towards it too—are we deriding them just for being people with great (if misdirected) desires, and driving them away with our anti-world rants?”
So, this Advent, instead of shaking our collective Christian heads and complaining about the “Santa’s” and the madness of gift buying and the crowds, can we rejoice that there is still the opportunity for wonder and a longing for hope that is exactly the reason that God did not abandon us, but chose, instead to enter the fleshy world which we inhabit… seeking to find a place to abide, not in a stable but in our hearts? Alleluia and Amen.
Love and Blessings
Please forgive me but in the midst of a very busy week I decided that there was no point in striving to reinvent the wheel. My thoughts on the coming few weeks are captured in this short article from “Seasons of the Spirit” produced by Mediacom…
But Wait, There’s More
“Advent is an intriguing season. In the midst of a world where we expect things instantly, and where technology has made it so waiting can feel obsolete, in comes this time where the church says to us, “Stop what you’re doing. Lay down your burdens and those things weighing upon you, and spend some time thinking about the coming of the Christ.” And so, each year that is precisely what we try to do.
This season is the start of the Christian year. Among other things it is a wonderful reminder that, while other aspects of our lives may well begin at January 1 or perhaps at a seasonal time other than that – the start of the school year, for example – still, our faith life begins at another time. Our church year begins with this anticipation of the birth of Jesus.
Of course, we celebrate Advent secure in the knowledge that the birth of Jesus is an historic event that is long past. However we understand the birth of Jesus, and the various elements the gospels give us about it, two facts emerge and stand hard and fast: Jesus was born, and that happened a long time ago.
So, given that, what are we waiting for in this Advent time? Hope, perhaps? New life? A renewed and strengthened awareness of God’s presence in our lives? A new heaven and a new earth?
It has been said that Advent is not just a preparation for the celebration of Christmas but rather is a preparation for the rest of the year that follows. We commemorate the historic reality of the birth of Jesus so that we can let that change us completely. As the magi “went home by a different path,” we, as Christians, are invited to encounter the Christ child and then move forth on a new and different path as people transformed once again by the presence of Jesus the Christ in our lives.”
Blessings in this season of Advent