A couple of weeks ago, I sat down for supper at the community meal hosted by our congregation. At the table was a young family from our congregation and a woman from our neighborhood , a woman I didn't know. We had a good time sharing small talk with one another, trying to convince the two young children that the turkey casserole was just as delicious as pizza, and sharing small bits of our lives.
After some time the children and their father left, the children off to choir practice, and I continued to talk with the woman for a little while. I don't remember either of us saying anything very earth-shaking. She praised the food and the company. She said she really enjoyed coming here for supper and mentioned that she had attended funerals at our church, on occasion. Then she looked around and said that she really liked the fact that there were all ages, including children, eating supper together. "There aren't any children in my life right now," she said.
This past week I didn't see her at supper; I had finished early so that I could prepare my short advent meditation for the worship that evening. However, I saw her in passing right before worship and she mentioned that she had left a small gift in my mailbox.
The next day I discovered it: a short note thanking me for our conversation the previous week, along with two bottles of Ensure and a "Bless Our Home" wall-hanging. She said I should use those things however I saw fit.
A lot of people say they are praying for me, but I have to say that I was touched by this particular gift. It was something simple and ordinary and real, and it was not ethereal at all. It was not a symbol of Hope or World Peace, not a great grand gesture which is a symbol of Something Else Entirely.
It's been one of those Advents for me, when everything seems to be getting away from me. I always have these great intentions of devotional discipline during Advent. I will light candles. I will write. I will read. I will pray. I will move along the path toward enlightenment, and then I will share that enlightenment with my congregation. But, to be honest, the enlightenment has mostly eluded me this year. I keep saying that Advent is about waiting, about watching, about preparing. But all of those things seem very ethereal to me right now, slipping through my fingers like a piece of thick fog.
But then there are two bottles of Ensure and a wall-hanging. I can hold them in my hands. They are a gift to use as I see fit.
I am thinking about laying off the deeper meanings of Advent for awhile, and just holding on to the ordinary things, the things I can touch: a simple meal, a few words, a small gift to use as I see fit. Instead of straining toward a far horizon, I will touch, and look at what is right in front of me. And I will say that somehow, God is right here, at the table, in the simple mess, not ethereal at all.
Take and eat.
Taste and see.
The true meaning of Advent.