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Greetings, Diocese of Olympia and all who may be watching.

And as I’ve said just about every year, let me also say “Happy New Year.” For our planet, we won’t be saying that for another month or so, but as Christians, we say it now. Our new year starts with the first Sunday of Advent, which this year is Sunday, November 28th. So Happy New Year, church.

Advent may be my favorite season, just four Sundays. It’s also the season I believe is most at odds with our culture. What do I mean by that? Well, our Advent, this short little four-Sunday season is really one designed for rest, for introspection, for preparation, and most of all for a quiet waiting for the arrival of Christ into our lives. Our culture has made it a time of frenzy, of anxiety, of worry, of exhaustion. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had quite enough of that in this last two years we just traveled. I really don’t need or want that right now, or anytime soon.

My wife and I have kind of sighed, chuckled and then been left in some remorse about all the ringing of hands when it comes to this supply chain challenged Christmas upcoming. Seems every night on the news, one of the greatest calamities of the moment is just how we Americans will be able to secure all of the stuff we want to give away, and in some cases believe is the main center point, the main reason for Christmas. It’s just this kind of focus that is simply when it comes to Christianity and the design of these days we call Advent, exactly the opposite attitude and mindset, and I might say where our hearts should be set more than anything that was and is intended by the season.

Advent is also important because as the Benedictines say, always, we begin again. And for us, Advent is where we begin again. We begin again the journey we traveled together in liturgy and calendar, life, ministry, and witness of Jesus Christ. So maybe this is the year we actually don’t worry about the stuff and really focus on each other.

What if instead of running around frantically trying to secure the next dust collector we will bequeath to someone, we sat down and wrote them a sincere letter about why they’re so important in our lives? What if we don’t work so hard to put this strange and trying two years we are just beginning to come out of behind us so quickly and instead, mine our hearts for those things that we most feared while going through it, the loss of those we love, the possible loss of our own lives? Regardless of whether or not you really get to slow down, I hope you will, even in the hecticness, try to find time to reflect on what in your life is important beyond all things, all stuff, all material possessions, and focus on how we cure our divides and mend our relationships.

I’ve told you many times in years past that I try to get all my shopping done before Advent begins. When I accomplish that, I’m so thankful, so gifted with this time, and with that, I have come to find Advent to be one of my favorite seasons of the year. I think I’m gonna make it again this year, and it’s been easier because I’m doing a lot less shopping and material gathering. I am instead going to focus on time, experiences and sharing my true feelings with those I love. In short, I’m gonna try to put into word and action what I believe we’re so often doing with our giving of gifts, but somehow too afraid or unconfident to simply say, I love you.

So everything you want this year may not arrive on time. Some of it may not arrive at all, but Advent is about one arrival that is as sure as the sun rising, and that’s Jesus Christ coming into our lives, the greatest gift ever. Jesus is even more sure than that, for when the day comes that the sun doesn’t rise, Jesus will still be with us. That gift is ours for everyone equally, and it’s one that keeps on giving forever. No supply chain here is gonna stop that. May you have a restful, quiet, reflective, and most blessed Advent.

Blessings to each and every one of you.

Advent 2021: A Message from Bishop Rickel

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