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December 2019 Family Ministries By Kathy E. Smith

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The Gods we worship write their names on our faces; be sure of that. [We] will worship something ...That which dominates will determine [our] life and character. Therefore it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming. - Ralph Waldo Emerson, Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist

What is Advent? Waiting for the Incarnation of God

Are you familiar with Advent as a part of the Christian liturgical year?  Or do you think of a calendar for children with cut-out windows to help them pass the days until Christmas?  Either way, you may not think it has much relevance to you as a Unitarian Universalist.  I’m beginning to think we UUs may be missing out on something important here.

In the traditional Christian observance of Advent, the world is waiting and preparing for the presence of God.  It is a time of quiet, somber meditation.  The children’s calendar, as fun as it is, helps emphasize the practice of patience.  It is a time of joyful anticipation.  Both approaches offer a different perspective on this holiday season, which we too often celebrate with packed calendars, high expectations, and emotional roller-coasters. 

What would preparing for the incarnation of God look like for a Unitarian Universalist?  The dictionary defines incarnation as “a person who embodies a deity, spirit, or abstract quality”.  We do not, as a group, believe that the divine manifests itself literally as a god in human form.  But we do believe that human beings have the capacity for great good.  Patience.  Kindness.  Mercy.  Fairness.  Compassion.  Loyalty.  Generosity.  Courage.  Empathy.  Over the millennia, almost all religions and cultures have agreed that these are qualities to which we should aspire.  When we embody these ideals, I believe that we are in fact incarnating the divine. 

What if we took just five minutes every day during Advent to focus on one of these qualities?  What if we expanded that to more than once a day?  What if, for instance, you decided that every long wait in line was an opportunity to practice patience?  What if you took that moment to pull out your phone and read an inspirational quote, or to look at each item in your basket and think with grateful anticipation how it will be used?  I wonder – would that deliberate, intentional practice of patience help you incarnate Patience in your life? 

What if you took the time at dinner or before bedtime to help your children tally up the coins in the change jar to donate to a worthy cause? Or if they helped you choose and buy a gift for the Kids’ Café (Sign up in the Fellowship Hall). I wonder – would that deliberate, intentional practice of gratitude and generosity help you incarnate Generosity in your life, and theirs?  I think it would.  To paraphrase Emerson, “What we worship is what we become.”