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A Lesson from the Wise Men: Bearing One Another's Burdens

111208-wisemen[Editors' note: This Advent season, we will be running a series of reflections on the Bread Blog from members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC. The lectionary readings for this post are Galatians 6:1-10; Matthew 11:1-6; Isaiah 7:1-9. Keep reading the Bread Blog for more Advent reflections each day.]

Bearing one another’s burdens is a bit like the inverse of exchanging Christmas gifts; rather than giving someone something at a time of joy, we offer to take someone’s burden during a time of a need. We offer to lift the load someone carries, such as the pain, guilt, or regret she cannot shrug off.

Buying a present seems so much simpler. Once unwrapped, the exchange is complete.  Bearing a burden for someone, on the other hand, is an ongoing arrangement.  It’s a commitment of empathy and support. It’s easy to tell ourselves that our own burdens are more than enough. Or we couldn’t possibly help anyway, so why get involved?

But what better time is there than Christmas to remember that God does not call us to a life of pursuing individual plans in disconnected ways? Christmas is a time to try to rebuild and expand communities, bringing together loved ones in celebration.

The crèche (or nativity scene) is one of my favorite reminders of community at Christmastime. Wise men from the east stand alongside shepherds and barnyard animals. These unusual suspects are brought together by the marvel of our savior -- the baby Jesus -- wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And not only do the wise men arrive from distant origins to witness and worship the Messiah, but they do so after a long and difficult journey.  Surely they felt weary and dispirited along the way. 

As I look toward Christmas this year, I feel a little weary myself. Some days, there doesn’t seem to be any hope for affecting change, or for transforming the world. And so Paul’s call to “not grow weary in doing what is right” rings true, as does his call to act upon moments of opportunity to work for the good of all.

In this Advent, let us stay alert to opportunities, knowing that God calls us to seek out ways of bringing hope to our broken world.  Let us remember and celebrate the way that a baby, born in a manger, could change everything. And amidst the hustle and bustle of the season, I hope that the nativity scene can be a constant reminder not to grow weary, but to be resolved to search for those moments to bear another’s burdens and to build God’s community.

Prayer: God of all seasons, help us to not grow weary, but to be perseverant in pursuing opportunities to show your love and bring about your vision for our world. Compel us to carry one another’s burdens and work for the good of all. Give us the strength of spirit to start each day in this Advent season with a renewed sense of opportunity and of hope, celebrating the coming of our Lord Jesus. Amen.

Kristin Ford is a member at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Visit their website at www.nyapc.org.

Photo by Flickr user Elessar.


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Thank you. So well put, and so much like what I have been trying to get through to people at my website.

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