It’s the most wonderful time of the year… right? But some days, it just doesn’t feel that way. Joy can seem so distant, like it’s buried beneath the surface or hidden within the dark. And on those days, the thought of being joyful just feels fake and inauthentic. But what if, instead of faking it, we pledged to be real this Advent — real with ourselves, with one another, and with God?

True, it would be much easier to put on a mask and pretend. But if we allow ourselves to fully experience the night, and everything that comes with it, we will be ready for the joy that comes in the morning.

Let’s be brave enough to be real together this Advent, completely present to each moment as we wait with expectation for what God is going to do next.

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Be glad in the Lord always! Again I say, be glad! Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near. Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

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One of my favorite parts of being a pastor is getting to hold newborn babies. I’m fully aware of the tiny but sacred new life I hold in my arms — life which calls me to be incredibly gentle.

But at some point in life, we tend to stop being so gentle with one another, don’t we? We are harsh. We overreact. We shame people with our comments about them online. We are unkind. We gossip. We can be downright mean sometimes. And when we treat people this way, we neglect the sacred gift God has given us in one another.

In the 1897 Christmas edition of The British Weekly, Ian MacLaren wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Maybe that person is a family member or friend. Maybe it’s a neighbor or a complete stranger. Or maybe, that person is you.

As we make our way through this season, may we let our gentleness show in our treatment of all people, even ourselves. Trust that the Lord is near.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

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Gentle God, remind me today of the gift of life you have given me through my relationships with the people around me. Some people I may know well, and others I may not. Help me to be gentle with them all, because you are so gentle with me. Amen.

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Be brave enough to be real.

Be curious about God’s world.

Be fully present to each moment.

Be gentle with yourself and with others.

Be filled with wonder.

And be ready for joy.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

Mary Alice Birdwhistell serves as the associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where she enjoys sharing life with a beautifully diverse community of people. She is a graduate of Georgetown College in Kentucky and Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Texas, and she claims both states to be “home.” Mary Alice loves the color purple, anything chocolate, and Kentucky basketball.

Advent: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Mark Hayes

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