Third Friday of Advent (Year B)
Advent Meditation by Sara Queen
The message in Samuel concerns David bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city and the joy David showed with its arrival – dancing, celebrating, and serving feasts. However, this reading is not just about the joy and celebration, in between those descriptions is the story of Michal, daughter of Saul, who watched David from her window and “despised him in her heart.” That pause in the telling of the celebration makes the joyful exuberance and the “cakes of dates” seem much sweeter.
Growing up, my Methodist church in Florida rushed into the full Christmas experience from the lighting of the first Advent candle; singing Joy to the World and other carols with gusto! When our family first came to Grace, it was a surprise – and initially disappointing – that advent was about the preparing, a time of reflection to ready ourselves for the joy that comes with Christ’s birth on Christmas. I now treasure this time of preparation, it allows us the space and time to more fully feel the Christmas joy when it comes. By pausing and preparing, Christmas is more special.
With the Covid pause still underway, there are so many things that I took for granted that will feel very different in the future. Whether it is the mundane (like having a business meeting live and in person, going to a movie theater, or walking bustling streets again) to the important (hugging my parents, spending time with family, or attending graduations and weddings), there are many things that I did not fully appreciate the joy in before this pause.
A week from today, we will excitedly awake to Christmas Day. Many of the holiday rituals will take place – stockings and presents will be opened; Christmas music will fill the air; treats will be eaten. Some of the rituals will be transformed from years’ past – like an online Christmas pageant and Christmas Eve service. Others will be paused for this year – instead of gathering with the entire Slibeck clan, we will be spread hundreds of miles apart, each staying in their respective hometowns. When Bennett and Emma were little, there were years I wanted to be able to stay in NYC and not travel to see family. Now faced with Christmas 2020, I desperately wish we could all be together. I know the joy I will feel next Christmas will be more intense because of this year’s pause.
The compline prayer really resonated with me the first time I heard it, and I have returned to it many times. I often find new things to appreciate about it depending on what I am feeling. As we prepare for Christmas this particular advent season, it feels even more comforting to say: “Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep…” Today, I am also drawn to Christ shielding the joyous. Shielding the joyous – what a wonderful and comforting phrase.
David danced “before the Lord with all his might” and the Psalmists wrote “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever”. When we are past this Covid pause, and can return to “normal” – I want to relish – or perhaps, wallow – in that joy! May we all soon experience unfettered joy! And whether you need tending, rest, blessings, soothing, or shielding, may the Lord comfort you.
Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or
weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who
sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless
the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the
joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.