Advent – You get what you give!

Advent spirit and Christmas joy? Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere. In the time leading up to Christmas conflicts, war, egoism, and bullying do not cease. Reflections on Advent.

There is a nice little story. Although it has nothing to do with Christmas, it is quite appropriate as an illustration. A homeowner is annoyed over the fact that the falling leaves from a large tree in his neighbour’s yard keep falling on his beautifully trimmed lawn. He rakes them together and throws them back over the fence into his neighbour’s yard—repeatedly. This annoys the neighbour to no end of course. The air is charged with unspoken accusations. But instead of paying his neighbour back, the owner of the tree buys him a big box of chocolates, wraps it beautifully, and deposits the gift at his neighbour’s front door.

The leaf-raking neighbour is not just a little surprised when he finds the gift and opens it. Inside is a note: “Everyone gives what they have.”

What do we give?

What do we give our neighbour? Chocolates, bitter or sweet things? Do we make life easy or hard for him? Only when we refrain from making empty promises and saying things we do not mean can Christmas really come. Only when we manage to put up with the weaknesses and failures of our neighbour and patiently overlook them, will Christmas be beautiful.

Our expectations that we will be paid back for all the unfair things that have happened to us will not be fulfilled. The desire is all too human, but it does not correspond with the gospel. A good and kind word will hurt no one. Christmas needs a certain spirit, a dignity of manner, and emotion. It takes time to prepare for this feast of peace, to attune to it, and allow it to do its magic. The Advent season is such a time.

Advent clears one’s head

Adventus domini—the arrival of the Lord—is not supposed to drive us to insanity, but have a calming effect on us. Advent is to help people find their equilibrium and free themselves from the ballast they carry around. There are only a few times in the year in which this applies, and Advent is one of them. Because those who wait joyfully and expectantly will be received joyfully. Those who sow peace will reap peace. And those who are patient and fair in their judgement will also be treated fairly by others. And in order to be able to understand this we need this time, the season of Advent.

There is a saying: “You get what you give.” In this spirit I wish you a happy second Advent.

PHoto: Evgeniy Kalinovskiy / fotolia

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Peter Johanning
Advent, Christmas