category: Advent

Advent Reflection: Day 16

Monday, December 14

Psalm 125; 1 Kings 18:1–18 Ephesians 6:10–17

Growing up in central Missouri, the coldest night of the year always seemed to be the evening of our annual Hanging of the Green service. As part of that Advent tradition, the entire congregation would recess near the end of the service to stand outside and watch while wreaths were placed on exterior doors. Then we would sing a hymn of dedication. With the bitter wind whipping through our thin tights, my childhood friends and I would stand huddled together shivering. Every year, Mr. Humphrey, an elderly member of the congregation, would have his long top coat ready to wrap around the small children. He physically surrounded us with his coat, but he also taught us how a church looks out for its most vulnerable members by surrounding us with love. The reading for today from Psalm 125 includes this encouragement: “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore.” With the certainty and protection that mountains provide, so too, does the Lord gather us together in his protective care. When have you felt surrounded by the presence
of the Lord?

One way that the Lord surrounds us is through the gift of his church. One tradition our church has is to wrap our graduating high school seniors in a blanket from the congregation during our annual Baccalaureate service. The physical act of covering them symbolizes the way that their church family will surround them in prayer as they begin the next phase of their life. Being embraced in this way allows them to have the confidence to be who God created them to be in the face of the new challenges ahead. Paul also talks about other ways that God surrounds and protects us as we put on the “full armor of God” described in Ephesians 6:10–17. For example, the belt of truth wraps around us to keep us from false teachings. Additionally, God fortifies our “shield of faith” through the strengthening power of our church communities.

Usually we feel this warmth of inclusion most during the season of Advent with its candle–lit worship services, holiday events, and family feasts. While it has been a strange year, where we have not been able to surround each other in physical presence, we are still called to be present to our faith communities and neighbors in whatever ways we can. How can you emulate Mr. Humphrey and meet the needs of the vulnerable in your community? It does not need to be a large or grand gesture—food delivery, lawn work, grocery pick–ups, handwritten notes, phone calls, sharing books or games. Here I am decades later remembering one tender act of kindness and the feeling of warmth and love it provided me. In it was an implicit understanding of the commandment to love your neighbor. Go and surround someone in love today.

Sarah Blackwell
School of Divinity Student

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Advent Reflection: Day 17

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Advent Reflection: Day 15

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