Today, I am pleased to introduce you to my writer friend Mary Camille Thomas. Back in 2019, before anyone had heard of COVID-19, Mary and I met in a spiritual writing course hosted by the curators of Creative Nonfiction magazine and expertly taught by Jonathan Callard.
A native of Santa Cruz, California, Mary Camille Thomas thinks herself lucky to have been able to return home after many years of living internationally and traveling on the road. A librarian by profession, Mary has had her poetry published in The Moving Force Journal, Porter Gulch Review and Sisters Singing. When she’s not composing rhymes or cataloging reads, you will likely find her working on her novel and a collection of poems of the spirit.
As I remain for many of you, I am grateful for Mary’s encouragement of my writing about spiritual things. Please take time to check out her blog, Kingdom of Enough.
Without further pomp and circumstance, here is Mary’s guest post contribution celebrating our focus on this Advent season.
The Kingdom Is at Hand
Every year, as I set pink and purple candles in a wreath, I begin Advent with the best of intentions, but inevitably and all too soon this luminous season of waiting and watching for the birth of the Divine Presence in the world gives way to endless lists of cards to address, gifts to buy, and cookies to bake. I give so much headspace to fretting about how I will fit it all in that I sometimes forget what this time is actually all about.
If I were a self-help writer, this is where the list would appear of five things you can do to prevent holiday burnout. Instead, I have the simple advice that a friend gave me last year just after Thanksgiving (when I might have been whining a little about how busy December would be): try to put Christ first.
She was right. We all know this, but what does that look like for us Christians living in 2022? Is it simply a matter of triage and doubling down on our spiritual practice? Yes, and … “The kingdom of heaven is at hand!” John the Baptist tells us in Matthew’s Gospel. In a culture that has turned Christmas into a consumerist extravaganza, I hear his passionate appeal to repent as an invitation to mindful awareness of the Presence of God – in this place, in this moment.
That is my lofty intention for this Advent, to follow Paul’s admonition to pray without ceasing by trying to practice awareness in each moment of God’s presence – a goal beyond my reach perhaps but worth aiming for. To keep my heart centered (and because I can’t resist a list after all), these are the guidelines I’ve given myself:
1. Easy does it on sweets, alcohol, and late nights. It’s okay to enjoy treats during this season of celebration but take care of yourself. Don’t overdo it.
2. Stay true to your spiritual practice. When you’re busy, it can be tempting to skip the customary ways you have of tuning into God’s Presence, but now more than ever they will sustain you. Keep going to church every Sunday. Maybe even consider trying something new. Check out The Devotional Guy’s Resources for A Basic Bible Reading Plan or try praying one of his modern psalms. Maybe even try writing one of your own!
3. Go outside. For me God’s creation is one of the best reminders of His Presence, and I am blessed to live in a beautiful place close to the ocean and to the redwoods, but even if you live in a city, go out and look up at the sky. Find a garden or a park to take a walk in, and while you’re there, follow the advice of the poet Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. Be amazed.”
4. Don’t sweat the small stuff. As much as I adore Christmas decorations and treats, this season isn’t about the perfectly trimmed tree or the most beautifully frosted sugar cookies. Putting Christ first means focusing on what’s most important: our relationships to God and to each other. It’s all about love.
5. Remember, you’re not alone. The frenetic energy of our culture at this time of year tends to feed our internal frenzy, but your faith family is experiencing this with you.
Let’s pray for each other this Advent as we wait and watch together for the coming of our Lord.
Mary Camille Thomas
I pray that you were blessed by Mary’s post and that you will take time to check out her blog. Let us pray for one another as we look forward to the return of our Lord Jesus.
Yesterday, my sweet wife, Terri surprised me by gifting me an Advent Calendar. I had mentioned a renewed interest in Advent calendars since delving into a deeper observance of the Advent season.
I grew up unchurched, as people down here like to say. Once we migrated from Switzerland to America, I recall my Oma Hedwig, my patriarchal grandmother, sending me an Advent Kalender (German for Calendar) in time for Advent every year when I was a young boy. She seemed to take an interest in my being exposed to the Christian faith, even though my Dad seemed ambivalent and indifferent about religion of any ilk. Faith always seemed to be a struggle for him as well as super-charged conversation for the two of us.
I am thankful that God didn’t give up on me and that I am blessed to have a wife who shares my love for Jesus.
Remember: Keep Jesus front and center and you’ll be more than alright.
The Devotional Guy™