Counting each day

Pastoral Messages | December 14, 2023

Ten years ago, only a small percentage of people had heard the word “Advent,” and even fewer had used an Advent calendar. Most of these early calendars helped count down the days to Christmas and told the story of Jesus. Every day a little door opened to reveal Bible verses or characters from the nativity, and if you were lucky, a small piece of chocolate. These calendars were a simple way for kids (and grown-ups) to be drawn into the story of Jesus’ birth, orienting these December days back to this One who saves us. 

But something happened in the last decade. Some genius marketing firm realized that there was an untapped opportunity to sell more stuff. Why have only chocolate in these Advent calendars, when it could be Legos, fancy jam, or a daily selection of beer? And so, in recent years, you can find an Advent calendar for every unique interest or hobby. These calendars are not just found at the neighborhood drugstore, there’s an $800 Chanel calendar and even a 1-million-dollar Porsche Advent calendar, complete with a customizable kitchen and a speedboat.  

Especially at their most luxurious, these Advent calendars seem to be in complete contradiction to what these Advent days are all about. For people of faith, Advent is about clearing out all the clutter that keeps us from noticing Jesus breaking into our lives. Our piles of stuff and our insatiable need for more are often what block us from seeing Jesus and loving our neighbors. The Advent season invites us to wake up and re-commit to bringing about Jesus’ way of peace and justice in the world, not necessarily to have 25 different types of hand lotion.  

And yet, these calendars can, “teach us to number our days” (Psalm 90:12). The daily opening of a door, or a box, regardless of what it contains, slows us down and pulls us into this particular day we’ve been given. The gift of these calendars is that they teach us about keeping time. We can’t jump ahead. We’ve only got today to live.  

And on this one day we have, even when it’s a rough one, there is always some taste of joy, a glimpse of the goodness of God already breaking in. Sometimes we just need to open a door to find it or search a little to notice. Often our anxieties about the future pull us out of living right now. Or the despair of our present hinders our imagination of what might be tomorrow. But the season of Advent teaches us to wait in the present, holding onto hope for our future.   

It’s not just Christmas we’re waiting for, but that great someday of Jesus’ return and restoration of this broken world and this whole cosmos. In the meantime, we count each day as precious, each day as a day to build love and create peace. And just so we won’t lose heart, each day, we are given glimpses of that promised someday of love and light showing up in unexpected ways.  

So, even as we build today’s Lego snowman or spread day #14’s holiday jam with delight, let’s also slow down to live this day as generously and lovingly as we can. As we count down to Christmas, we can be on the lookout for the in-breaking of God’s grace. Who knows what kind of goodness we’ll find as we open new doors?  

-Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

7 Comments on “Counting each day”

  • Howard Swayne

    December 19, 2023 at 11:10 am

    Sara, what a gift you have for talking to our soul.

  • Mark Walther

    December 18, 2023 at 8:22 pm

    You have a treasured ability to reach others in a sincere, reflective, and powerful manner, Pastor Sara…Thanks for making such a positive difference in the lives of others!

  • Larry Price

    December 17, 2023 at 7:27 am

    THANK YOU!! It’s such a great message for everyday in our lives.

  • Diane Swayne

    December 15, 2023 at 8:13 pm

    Great message so well written.
    Thanks Pastor Sara

  • Anke Maass

    December 15, 2023 at 9:11 am

    We so need to think about Christmas in this way! Thx for great message

  • Shari Duncan

    December 14, 2023 at 5:02 pm

    Fantastic message. Thanks for sharing.

  • Deb Lamp

    December 14, 2023 at 1:33 pm

    Great message and growing memories.

Leave a Comment