category: Advent

2023 Advent Devotion: Day 15

Sunday,  December 17

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; John 1:6-8, 19-28

Isaiah speaks about making right that which is not good, about turning negative into positive, and about creating that good that can repair much. It is about comfort and joy and the promise “to comfort all who mourn” (61:2).

It brings to mind an incident that has stuck with me. When I was in graduate school in my 20s, I found
myself traveling overnight by Amtrak from Chicago to Mississippi. My car wasn’t reliable, and I couldn’t afford an airline ticket. I was sitting next to an older woman. We said hello, asked how far we were going, and then I nodded off to sleep. Sometime in the night I felt her touching my shoulder to wake me up. She pointed out the window at the bright lights of the Memphis bridge over the Mississippi River and the Christmas decorations we were passing. “Look at that,” she said. I looked out in silence at the beauty of the lights shining in the dark night. I was immediately struck by the kindness this stranger was showing me, to make sure I didn’t miss seeing something that she found beautiful. It was a spectacular sight on a long ride through darkness. She wanted to share that joyful moment with me, a person she didn’t know or would ever see again. John speaks of bringing good news, “bearing witness of . . . light” (1:8) that we “might believe” (1:7).

I have always remembered that moment of small kindness. It speaks to the little things we do that unbeknownst to us are needed by someone else in that moment. It speaks to our desire to see others partake in joy. And it reminds me that we never know how our actions will affect others.

The Advent season is a time we often strive to bring joy to others, through homecooked meals, visits to family, giving of presents, or serving community. We can build good, bring comfort and joy, even in the most difficult times. We don’t need to look far to see the many problems of the world. These scriptures remind me how I can bear witness to the good that is also all around us and strive to bring that joy to others in this season and always.

This stranger on the train would likely be surprised that I still think of her and her kind action of caring. Merry Christmas! I wish you all joy in the many ways we share our kindness.

Karen Aubrey
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

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2023 Advent Devotion: Day 14

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2023 Advent Devotion: Day 16

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