Advent Meditations From La Vida, Part Two: Sacred Moments

In this challenging holiday season, the La Vida Center for Outdoor Education and Leadership team has encountered encouragement, joy, curiosity and hope. As a result of these experiences, they present four Advent devotionals composed by members of the core office staff. Register to receive La Vida’s Advent devotionals via email > 

By Abby Stroven, La Vida executive director

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

 ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”
—Matthew 2:1–11 NIV

When you look back on your day, what do you say? I often aspire to say “I spent my time wisely. I pursued what was good and right and true. My presence made an impact. I did something worthwhile.” What keeps us from being able to say these things at the end of the day?

To pursue what is eternal, we must be present in the moment. Being fully present in mind, body, soul and spirit doesn’t come naturally. Every moment there is a battle for our attention that rages in our minds.

At this very moment, you may be distracted by yelling children, chattering coworkers or phone notifications. There’s also the noise of news and culture; the constant pressures around self-image; physical and emotional pain . . . the list goes on. Eventually it spirals. It’s no wonder that the popular refrain of our time is “Where did the time go?”

The holiday season is hardly exempt from our perpetual distractedness—if anything, it’s worse!

We are flooded with mental lists of all the things we think we should be doing during this season—sending Christmas cards, shopping for the perfect gift, donating to those in need and preparing for next year. These are all good things, but when you pile them one on top of the other they become a mountain of tasks that can keep us from focusing on what is eternal.

I often reflect on the wise men who noticed the star and then followed its path to Jesus. The role they play in the Christmas story requires presence and focus: they noticed the star and followed it to Jesus. They took the time to pause, look up and notice. And what they noticed led them on a journey that required immense focus and determination. It required setting all their other responsibilities and duties aside, blocking out the noise of everyday life and embarking on a quest toward the literal presence of Christ.

Like the wise men, when we fight against the urge to jump from one distraction to the next, we position ourselves to recognize what God is doing in the world and join him in his work. There will, of course, be times that we give into the momentary interruptions and veer off course. The good news is God offers grace in the midst of distraction. God never stops giving us opportunities to join him in his Kingdom work. He never stops pursuing a relationship with us. He desires for us to be fully present with him.

This Christmas season, I encourage you to implement La Vida’s practice to “be here now.” There are a million things to distract or worry us, perhaps this year more than any. But God is faithful, and God is calling us to the peace of a manger and the stillness of a sacred moment.

So be present with those around you. Notice the sights, sounds and smells of the beautiful world in which we live. Glance up at the stars and think about what those wise men and the king were seeking. Take time to enjoy Christmas lights and a good eggnog. Talk with your household about where you see God at work in world and how he is providing for you in this moment and your life.

It won’t be easy; the journey to the manger wasn’t either. When you face fear, remind yourself that the God of the stars is the God of your coming and going. When you face worry, remind yourself that God has you on a journey and will provide all your needs and even more. When we seek God’s presence, we find ourselves meeting the God who is present with us everywhere at all times.

If we can step into this reality, we may be surprised at the joy and freedom we experience during this Advent season.

Discussion Questions:

  • Pause for a few moments and notice the details of your surroundings. What do you notice that you usually miss?
  • Where did you see God today? How do you see God at work in your life and community?
  • Has 2020 made it harder or easier to be present? What does it look like this Advent season to live each moment in thankful presence?
  • How can you join God in his work?