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Advent Reflections: Bear One Another's Burdens

'Presents' photo (c) 2007, Allie Towers Rice - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

[Editor's note: This Advent season, Bread Blog will be running a series of reflections written by lay members of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.  This post is reprinted, with permission,  from the church's 2013 Advent Meditations booklet.]

By Kristin Ford

Lectionary readings:

Galatians 6: 1-10

Matthew 11: 1-6

Isaiah 7: 1-9

“…Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ…. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially those of the family of faith.” (Galatians 6: 2, 9-10)

Bearing one another’s burdens is, I think, a bit like the inverse of exchanging Christmas gifts.  Rather than giving someone something at a time of joy, it is instead offering to take something at a time of a need—lifting the load someone carries, the pain or 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 that we couldn’t possibly help anyway, so why get involved? But what better time 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 is one of my favorite reminders of community at Christmastime, with wise men from the East standing 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, they do so after a long and difficulty journey. Surely they felt weary and dispirited on 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 effecting 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, carrying one another’s burdens and working 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 of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.              


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