This is a posting from our blog, lopetsinlaos, but I thought I would share it here on the Ashram as well.
It’s advent season in the church calendar. It’s the time of year that I like to stop and ponder so that the season doesn’t pass by only to end with a heap of wrapping paper and extra pounds from the big Christmas meal. The cool weather, Christmas music, and lights all help to serve as reminders that this is a special season...a special time of the year. How easily it can become buried in running around from store to store to find those “perfect” gifts. I have found myself in the last minute shopping crowd more times than I care for.
This year, the advent season means a season of moving and packing up for us. We waited to begin packing until after Thanksgiving. Thankfully (yes, I am thankful) it allowed us to enjoy a few extra weeks of “normalcy” before we have had to enter this transition stage. I have dreaded the transition stage. Truly dreaded it.
Last night I sat at our Sunday fellowship, in the darkness, as they lit the first advent candle and talked about the idea of “awakening”. I found myself numb and barely able to concentrate on what they were saying. All good stuff, stuff that I wanted to hear and chew on. As I said, I like to be thoughtful and ponder the meaning of the seasons. I don’t want them to just pass me by. But moving and transition seem to be trumping this Christmas season. Does this mean that our Christmas will take the form of packing and saying good-byes? Is it possible for us to open our hearts to the Christmas story? To stop and reflect and take time to really be present to the arrival of Jesus?
As I lay in bed, feeling sorry for myself that we have to be moving out of our home so quickly (December 15 is the deadline for all of our stuff to be out) a thought entered my mind. Mary and Joseph were sent to Bethlehem to have their baby. Mary must have felt the desire to nest and make a home for herself and the new baby. And yet, she packed up her few belongings and set off on a long journey on the back of a donkey. She wasn’t able to “book” her return ticket...she had no idea where they would be staying until the baby’s arrival. They had no reservations at a comfortable hotel. Wow, she must have been feeling anxious or overwhelmed...I know I would have.
Somehow in my moments of self-pity, this reflection of Mary came to comfort me. In a time when it made the most sense for her to stay put and rest and await the baby’s arrival, she was packing up, moving to an unknown destination, and with a lot of question marks ahead of her. She merely had to trust that God was leading her to a good place. That he was with her. That he would take care of her and her baby. Blind faith.
And here I am. I am feeling the unsettledness. I am not about to have a baby (thankfully...), but I am leaving our place of stability. I am heading out into a time of unknown. How long will it take us to find a home in Laos? How long will we be “homeless” and living out of our suitcases? How long until I can find a sense of normalcy again? And so I can look to Mary’s story...her own moments of unknown...and be comforted.
While this isn’t my ideal way to spend the advent season, there is still meaning to be found in the Christmas story. I can journey through this advent on the back of a donkey, and hopefully learn the same lessons of faith from my friend Mary.