Tis the season of Advent, a joyful time in the calendar as we prepare for Christmas. My husband and I got an unusually early start on our Christmas decorations this year, and our weekend of stringing up lights and hanging stockings on the mantel has me pondering the colors of Christmas.
In the coming weeks, I’ll focus on a different color of Christmas, starting today with the color white.
In our western culture, white represents many good qualities: innocence, purity, light, goodness. We sing songs dreaming of a white Christmas and get a little excited (at least in some parts of the country) if the weather forecast calls for snow to blanket everything in its stillness and quiet on that magical day.
White is the color you get when all other colors get absorbed. I think the Christmas season is a bit like that, absorbing all of our prayers and dreams and hopes and expectations, even our fears and sorrows.
A little white book
I have Enuma Okoro to thank for opening my eyes to this color of the season. I’m reading her latest book Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent. The simple white cover drew me to the book, probably because I’ve found myself craving simplicity more than ever this year.
This book is as refreshing to me as its cover, because it doesn’t start where you might expect.
The first week of Okoro’s devotional has us examing Zechariah’s encounter with the Angel Gabriel in the temple, a declaration of a son John to be born to Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, the answer to years of heart-wrenching prayer.
Perhaps you, too, know years of heart-wrenching prayer. And maybe some of you have grown tired of praying the same prayer again and again only to hear what seems like silence from God. If so, let me offer this passage of hope from Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent:
Zechariah approaches the Temple supported by a community of believers.
In an unavoidable way he faces his task alone, coming before God alone.
But in powerful and mystery-filled ways the prayers of the people outside
the temple support Zechariah. Yes, this was Zechariah’s duty and the duty
of the community, but we are all made dutiful to one another as siblings in
the kingdom of God. A duty can also be a privilege when enacted
with love. … Sometimes when we find ourselves too burdened by the
extent of our longings, too prayed out, or too exhausted with coming
before God, we can look to others to bear our burdens prayerfully until we
regain our own strength of spirit. 22-24
I love that Okoro reminds us that it’s our duty to pray for those in our community of faith but that the duty is also a privilege when we approach it with a heart full of love. This passage made me stop and reflect on my own “siblings in the community of God.” I’m so very blessed to have loving family and friends who are my prayer community, who will pick up even when I’ve left off praying a prayer for myself.
Who in your life considers it a privilege to lift up prayers on your behalf? Who is your community? Who are your dutiful siblings who will pray for you? Who helps you take a break when you need to restore and refresh your spirit?
You may have a large number in your community, or perhaps you have only one friend or family member or co-worker you can always rely on to pray for what’s weighing on your heart. However large or small your community, might I encourage you to read Okoro’s book as we all journey together through this season of Advent? We can form our own community right here. And I sincerely mean it when I say that it would be my privilege to lift up prayers on your behalf.
If you’re reading Silence and Other Surprising Invitations of Advent, I’d love to know which passages stir you and how Okoro’s book makes you rethink your approach to Advent.