2 Kings 22:1-8; 23:1-3
Josiah was eight years old when he began to reign; he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. He did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right or to the left.
In the eighteenth year of King Josiah, the king sent Shaphan son of Azaliah, son of Meshullam, the secretary, to the house of the Lord, saying, “Go up to the high priest Hilkiah, and have him count the entire sum of the money that has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the keepers of the threshold have collected from the people; let it be given into the hand of the workers who have the oversight of the house of the Lord; let them give it to the workers who are at the house of the Lord, repairing the house, that is, to the carpenters, to the builders, to the masons; and let them use it to buy timber and quarried stone to repair the house. But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money that is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly.”
The high priest Hilkiah said to Shaphan the secretary, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord.” When Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, he read it.
Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.
A man was serving the church as a missionary in China. He was under house arrest, when soldiers finally came one day and said to him, “You Can Return to America.”
The family was celebrating, and the soldiers said, “You can take 200 pounds with you.”
Well, they had been there for years. Two hundred pounds. So they got out the scales, and started the family arguments: 2 children, wife, and husband. Must have this vase. Well, this new typewriter. What about my books? What about this? And they weighed everything and took it off and weighed this and took it off and weighed that and, finally, right on the dot, two hundred pounds.
The soldier asked, “Are you ready to go?””
“Did you weigh everything?”
“You weighed the kids?”
“no, we didn’t.”
“Weigh the kids.”
And in that moment, typewriter and vase and all became trash. Trash. It happens.
-From Craddock Stories, a collection of stories by Fred Craddock
‘Tis the season, it would seem. Some of us are still digesting our turkey dinners, and already the emails and phone calls are flying about: Christmas lists, dinner plans, party invites. And all of it is JUST. SO. IMPORTANT.
Anyone ever just wish in moments like these that you could go back to being a kid? Remember what Christmas felt like when you were little? The countdowns until school is out? The excitement? The sense of complete and utter wonder? The awe and mystery of Christmas Eve? The unfettered joy of ripping Christmas wrapping? The complete and utter lack of dread, or responsibility? I don’t know about you, but I know an awful lot of adults who wish there were a few more weeks before Christmas.
So what is it about childhood? Somehow, Children have it all figured out: that this is a season of anticipation, of hope for the future, of excitement for what is coming. They are counting down, and every day is one step closer.
Like Josiah, the child king, who recognized the importance of the law, kids just get Christmas. They may not know the story so well, but they get the feeling of Christmas: the hope, the joy, the excitement of what is coming.
Because that is what it is folks. We may have smothered this season in Black Friday ads, tinsel, and obligation, but when you get down to it, Christmas is all about anticipation.
Over the last few weeks, we have been talking in acolyte class about this, and we came up with this idea, that there are certain foods that taste like Christmas. And we thought to ourselves, what would it mean to “taste” Christmas on the first Sunday of Advent? To remind ourselves of what we are looking forward to?
And so for first Advent at IPC, we brought our favorite Xmas Food to share in worship. Cookies, candy canes, Stollen. And we brought it because we hoped that all of those who gathered with us would take a moment, an opportunity during worship, to remind themselves that this season, of Advent, is always looking forward to Christmas: that this is a time to prepare, to remember, and to anticipate.
I have a theory about why we grown-ups have a harder time remembering to hope during Advent. I have a feeling it has something to do with being so busy, or thinking we are. We are always doing something, planning something, preparing something, driving someone, checking emails, filling every moment until there simply is no time left to stop and remember. NO time left to think, really. We don’t give ourselves permission to slow down. We worry that if we do, Christmas won’t happen. Or that it won’t be perfect.
And so there is no time left to ask the questions, like:
Is this true?
Is this real?
Is this what Christmas is really about?
I wonder whether perhaps the greatest gift that we could give ourselves this Advent is the gift of Time and the permission to not be perfect. To choose rest, to choose face time with family and loved ones, to choose quiet and reflection over the seemingly inescapable soundtrack of Christmas out there? To choose to be with those who will support us in that effort so that we can remember together, why this season is so important?
A colleague of mine has suggested that perhaps Advent is the perfect season for fasting. She writes: “The point of fasting during advent is not on what you are giving up, it’s on what you are gaining.” So, for example, fasting from our phones is time to focus on something else. Money we choose not to spend on so many obligatory gifts can be given to a worthy cause. Fasting from television, from shopping, from facebook: they aren’t easy, they are hard. They are disciplines.
But what might we gain? One more afternoon with loved ones. One more opportunity to remember that love isn’t something that money can buy—love looks more like that very first imperfect Christmas in a dirty stable, and it is remembered every time we take time for one another rather than for ourselves.
Love looks like the recognition that all the lamps and typewriters are worthless compared to 200 pounds of children home safe with their mother and father.
Because that is the lesson of Advent, and the reason for Christmas hope: God spent time with us. In the person of Christ, God came and dwelled, and in his light we found that we were not alone. We were not afraid. We were loved. And it was enough. In fact, it was perfect.