Welcome to day 22 – the final day of the Living Advent Calendar. We started off our journey with an interactive beach hut advent calendar experience, with real doors being opened each day, so that people could go beyond a fleeting bite sized chocolate version – and step in to savor the real McCoy. In the same vein, each day we have opened a door to uncover an inspirational life – an ordinary person opening real doors of hope, love, peace and justice to others in extraordinary ways.
What has been quite a surprise to me on this advent-ure is that instead of running out of people for each of the doors (a very real worry as I realised what I’d committed myself to about a week after starting!) – I have run out of doors! I could carry on opening doors to share stories for many more days – as there are so many inspirational lives to discover! Ordinary people who are defiantly hopeful in the face of despair, joyful in the face of pain and serving others selflessly despite their own great needs.
They come from all over the world, are old and young, male and female, and from all walks of life, serving in a myriad of different ways. But one thing brings them all together. They are living Advent calendars – who daily open real doors of hope, love, justice and peace to others because they do life with the one who Christmas is all about. They step into the suffering of others, just like Emmanuel, God with us, who stepped into our world and daily opens his arms to embrace us and call us beloved. They serve because they know the servant king who chose to serve not to be served. Bringing light into darkness, warmth into coldness and hope into despair.
Christmas will be different for lots of us this year. There will be heavy hearts as we light the candles. There will be empty chairs at many tables. There will be tears among the laughter and chatter. I hope that this living Advent journey has been a reminder that in the midst of loss and pain and sadness, there is still hope and joy and gladness for all the good, all the love, all the light, and the ‘life in all its fulness’ that Jesus brings.
This Advent journey was inspired by my very special mum who we lost to cancer this year. Mum was a living Advent calendar person – opening her heart and her home so that strangers soon became friends and friends soon felt like family. The memories of her practical love in action, flowing from her servant heart, continue to impact and challenge me every single day.
Even in her last few weeks in the hospice, she was looking out for the needs of others despite her own situation. She organised a food bank delivery for someone who was struggling. She chose to write cheery poems and uplifting messages on her little board when her voice no longer functioned. She chose to roll her sleeves up to weed and plant bulbs in the hospice garden so that others could enjoy the beautiful blooms in the spring.
She, like the other people we have opened doors to discover each day, walked with the one who we celebrate tomorrow. The one who works miracles in the mundane. Who sees beauty in the broken. Who forgives those who persecute him. Who can bring joy despite pain. Who brings courage that overcomes fear. Who lights up the darkness. Who daily opens up his arms in a loving embrace to offer us love, hope, peace and joy – no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.
William Parks said ‘Christmas is not just a day, an event to be observed and speedily forgotten. It is a spirit which should permeate every part of our lives.’
John 8 v 12 ‘ I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’