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Advent Reflections: Start with the Neighbor


A Place at the Table
movie still of dinner service at a soup kitchen (Courtesy of Participant Media).

[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 Ella Cleveland 

Lectionary readings:

Isaiah 3:8-15
Matthew 25:31-46
2 Peter 3:8-18

Advent Scriptures that deal with the second coming are often harsh, and threaten devastation and the separation of sheep and goats for judgment. In order to be sorted into the “sheep” fold, we are instructed to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, invite in the stranger, look after the sick, and visit prisoners. Jesus says that if we do these things to the least fortunate, we are doing it to him (Matthew 25: 40).

These instructions seem easy on the surface.  However, there’s a difference between what Jesus says we may do and what we actually end up doing.  Many people get stuck trying to discover their skills and talents and what direction they should take.  Sometimes they never figure out what they have to offer. 

Being a Christian is not difficult if you start with the neighbor, rather than thinking about yourself and your talents.  Choose someone less fortunate than you are.  You can choose the poorest, or the hungriest, or spend time with, and listen to, a lonely neighbor.

How do we measure success?

I find these quotes from Mother Theresa inspiring:

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”

“It is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.  We will be judged by ‘I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.’  If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.”

“God doesn't require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”

Prayer:  Loving God, please help us to lead holy and godly lives, as we look forward to a new heaven and earth (2 Peter 3:11b and 13).

Ella Cleveland is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C.

 

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