SPARTANBURG — The spirit of the season descended on parishioners at Jesus, Our Risen Savior the other night in a gentle flicker of candlelight.
The parish was determined to keep Christ in Christmas, so they brought in nationally known speaker Miki Hill to discuss how her husband, Tim, and her family of nine children celebrate the season. Hill, from Baltimore, usually discusses marriage and family life. The other night, she talked about how the entire family can prepare spiritually for Christmas.
The event was called “Advent by Candlelight” and was a fund-raiser benefiting the St. Joseph Residence for retired priests, which was dedicated in Charleston in November. The event brought together 100 adults and 47 children. Their generosity sent $700 to the retired priests’ home, and Hill’s insight sent Our Risen Savior’s flock home filled with ideas on how to prepare their lives to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
That was the true gift of “Advent by Candlelight.”
Father Chuck Snopek, pastor of Jesus, Our Risen Savior, enjoyed the evening and particularly approved of the emphasis on prayer. He said it was nice that parishioners heard about it from someone other than a priest.
Susan Lawson, a hostess for the event, said, “I think Christ was planted a little deeper in my heart last night. And while some are taking the Christ out of Christmas, they will never remove him from my heart.”
Lynn Connelly said Hill’s discussion on prayer, penance and preparation inspired her.
“All the traditions of my home and family can be done ultimately to show Christ how much I love him,” Hill said.
Spiritual preparation is important, Hill said. If you don’t bring yourself closer to Christ, then Christmas will prove hollow. After all the gifts are opened, the eggnog gulped and the bowl games watched, then you will experience a void, an empty feeling, if you haven’t thought about the true meaning of the coming of our Lord.
Hill said the church and its traditions can help us prepare the way. During Advent, we celebrate the Immaculate Conception, St. Nicholas, St. Juan Diego and St. Lucy. The church also features the Advent wreath, the Jesse Tree and the Christmas creche.
The event was set up with 12 tables, each with a traditional Advent theme. On those tables was literature on the history of each theme and how to apply it in your homes today. It gave those who attended plenty of ideas.
Hill, meanwhile, stressed that we must pray in order to talk with Christ.
“It needs to be an intimate dialogue with God, similar to a husband and a wife. Without that dialogue in a marriage, the relationship will die. How can we experience the true joy of Christmas if there is no union with Christ?” she said.
Tina Andress, one of the organizers, said, “Do Christmas with prayer, and it will take on a whole new meaning. If you are not tied to the vine, then you will wither,” she said of spiritual blessings. With those blessings, you can spread joy to those around you. Without them “you cannot give to others what you don’t have.”
Advent, Hill said, is an opportunity to dejunk our lives and make a positive change. All it takes to start is a prayer, just a little talk with God. Then build on it. She also said that the human side of us needs Santa and all the glitter that comes with the holiday season. That’s not bad as long as we don’t get lost in it.
But remember prayer. That, perhaps, is what Advent is all about. Just a little talk with God, thanking him for sending his son to us and blessing us during this holiest of seasons.