Each year everyone in our family chooses a new Christmas ornament. We all have our own special, personal box in which we keep our ornaments between seasons. I always enjoyed watching the children open their boxes and pull out their ornaments. It seems like Christmas Day to them as they are reminded of those special memories that surround each ornament.
A few years ago, I noticed something unusual as we began decorating our Christmas tree. Our sons were their usual exuberant selves, but our daughter seemed distracted. Later that night she told me that she had found a thank you note which she had written the year before to one of her grandfathers. Somehow the note fell into her box and was never sent. She was troubled that she didn’t get to properly thank her grandfather before he died earlier that year.
The word Advent means ‘coming’ and the season of Advent is intended to be both a celebration and preparation for the coming of Christ, personally and communally. Throughout his life, Jesus restored relationships with God. He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39b).” Jesus understood that the way we relate to one another is a reflection of our relationship to God. Typically, those who neglect their earthly relationships also tend to neglect their spiritual ones. God uses us as symbols and examples of His love, acceptance, forgiveness, and presence in the way we relate to others. The influence we wield in our relationships can either encourage the advent of Christ in their lives, or discourage it.
It can be so easy to neglect relationships that really matter. Sometimes we get too busy for others, or we convince ourselves that there will be plenty of time to be with others when we have retired – been promoted – earned enough money – or even after the holidays when things slow down. Pride can also cause us to neglect relationships. Are we too proud to make the first reconciliatory move when a word has been misspoken, or a misunderstanding has been left unresolved? Everyone knows someone who needs to know that God is present with them, cares for them, and loves them. This is a message that is better exemplified than spoken.
The Advent and Christmas seasons are the perfect times to reach out and begin to restore or even strengthen our friendships as we prepare for God. The best gift one can give to God is trying to actually ‘give’ God to those around us. And time is always short. The old saying is still true, “A single rose to the living is more beautiful than a wreath to the dead.” Even if they have another Christmas, you may not.