• ucphelps


My grandparents lived in a huge (at least to me as a child) house in Harpursville, NY - full of nooks and crannies that sparked my imagination. I so enjoyed going there to visit, to explore, and to spend time with my grandparents. The house was uniquely built: the front door entered into the large dining room which branched off to either a small room (I could never figure out what purpose that room served) followed by a large living room or a hallway to the kitchen or my grandmother's bedroom. From the living room, you went upstairs to find five bedrooms! One of them was mine. Can you imagine being a child and wandering through a large house like this? And even more intriguing were the many gardens my grandfather took care of and an OUTHOUSE!!!! Wow!

I can very much relate to Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy who find the professor's house a thing to explore and full of surprises. As the days go by, in England, with strangers, far from their home and parents, wondering when WW2 would end so they could be reunited with their parents, the children must have needed some activity to keep them going. Imagine playing hide and seek in such a house!

Lucy happens upon a room with only a large wardrobe inside. Her curiosity gets the best of her and she opens the door to find fur coats. But not quite satisfied with that, she climbs in to see what treasures it might hold. She pushes through the coats that are stored there, moving further and further to the back of the closet. But she never finds the back. Before she knows it, she finds herself in the middle of a snowy forest! How did that happen? And what will she find there?

Growing up, I never knew about the season of Advent but I did know my family was preparing for the celebration of Jesus' birth. I never knew what I would find when I came home from school or when we would go to the Vermont border to pick a tree out and set it up in our living room. Excitement filled the air and as Christmas got closer and decorations were put up and cookies were baked, I was filled with anticipation!

This year is a strange Advent season due to many things: COVID-19 - will we be able to meet and worship together in the church building or will it be virtually?; the election and the extreme polarization of the county; people feeling marginalized and not respected and others not understanding why they feel that way; violence every time we turn around; people who were out of work during the PAUSE time struggling to get back on track with their finances; winter weather arriving; and there are probably many more stresses to add to the list.

This is a strange "land" we live in this year! Sort of like Narnia - the landscape hardly feels happy and upbeat, full of possibilities and surprises. We can barely manage to face today, let alone think about future days.

Yet this is a "magical time" (to use Haverkamp's words) because it is set apart from other days to help us focus ourselves on God. We don't have to be holly and jolly. The season comes regardless. We can have a simple season if we need to this year. What matters most is preparing ourselves spiritually for receive the greatest gift of all times: the gift of the Son of God entering our world as a human baby.

What can help us focus? Reading Luke which tells the story of Jesus' birth. Paying attention to what God is doing in our lives, which we might think of as coincidences but are really God-incidences of God placing us in the right place at the right time. Doing something small anonymously for someone else. Intentionally focusing on God's love for us as shown through the birth of His Son, Emmanuel, God with us.

May you grow closer to God as you prepare (in whatever way you choose to prepare) for the celebration of Jesus' birth! Be filled with the Spirit of hope and peace!

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