Magic whispers from the flight of every twinkling light, a flight of fancy in the cold darkness of New England’s winter. There are a fight of holidays tightly condensed into the days of Advent, granting so many cultures a moments pause within the all-encompassing preparation for Christmas. And so, somehow, this third Sunday of Advent becomes one of those moments to begin to find the “more”. The theme is joy, and it is echoed in so many traditions of the human family. The readings of the day are a call to patience, a reassurance of comfort, and an attentiveness to the moment. They are each a reminder that all of us, each of us, the old and the young, the infirm and the heartbroken, the gentle and the strong, the kind and the heartless, we are all part of this one world, this universe of being. None of us exists fully without the other. And yet, there are those among us who have the unique possibility of gifting others with transformation.
Those moments are the tenderest ones and they glide into ordinary days with a decidedly unexpected impact. They are to be known and explored, recalled in each detail with the grace of gratitude and the strength of meaning. Think for just a moment: the unanticipated kindness, the trill of a doorbell, the helping hand, the welcome but unanticipated cup of coffee delivered on a cold evening. But there is more…the gentle hand on a shoulder bent with worry, the glance of understanding spilling out in conflict, the deep silences of special conversations. It is there, in the fullness of what is most ordinary, that the extraordinary slips into days and nights. It is where the traditions and beliefs of so many cultures collide into the deepest of all truths.
Love matters far more than cynicisms and mistrust. But what matters is where it comes from. The Zen master, Hanh, points out that a wounded soul can wound others in its attempts to love. And to love demands the best of ourselves. the healthiest parts, the self-awareness to resist self-aggrandizement and to be fully attentive to other. The words “I love you” can bear carry the desires and demands of “I” rather than the focus, care and understanding of “you”. There is a selflessness in love that does not deny self-care or allow for self-abnegation. Instead, there is the clear recognition that to be able to love means accepting and understanding, knowing and trusting oneself. While that seems a near paradox, instead it is the ultimate sense of what this season is actually about.
The gift of Christmas is the truth that there is a God who dares to love us just as we are, flawed and with foibles, mistakes and triumphs, always ready to ride on in the relationship. It is ongoing throughout the mysteries of life, the accidents and the successes, the challenges and the losses. It is a love that simply exists; there is no earning it and no deserving it. It is simply always there. It is the affirmation, as Hanh says, that, “You are part of the Universe. You are made of stars.” And so there it is, the joy of the Third Candle of Advent and the ability to see that others among us are made of stars, too…..and the Universe awaits.