Read some lovely Advent reflections from members of the Mercyhurst community! Reflections shown here are written by: Brenda Snyder, director of the registered nursing program at MNE, Greg Baker, director of campus ministry, Jenell Patton, outreach coordinator in campus ministry, and Fr. Jim Piszker, chaplain.
Reflection by Brenda Snyder
As Andy Williams reminds us, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” The holidays, advent season, Christmas – whatever you call this season, there’s no getting around the fact that
this is a time of great preparation. In this busy time of the year, it’s also a wonderful time to reflect on all of the happiness around us and within us.
So, where does all that happiness come from? For me, it comes from my faith. Jesus tells us in John 16:24, “Ask and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” I have asked over and over again throughout the years, and He has always been faithful to His word. While I haven’t always received in the way that I thought would be best, He has provided me with more than I’ve asked on many occasions.
Let me give you an example. In November of 2003, I realized that I could no longer stay in my current position. This realization was based on the fact that my core values were being jeopardized. Through much prayer, I felt reassured that I was making the right decision. With no other job in sight, I handed in my resignation. Let me assure you that this was an uncomfortable situation for me. And then I waited on the Lord.
I applied at local hospitals and put the word out that I was looking for a position. Imagine my surprise when I heard from the director of the nursing program at a local community college. I had always worked in a hospital. I didn’t have any formal teaching experience. My Christmas gift that year was my first teaching job. The Lord knew that I would find true happiness in sharing my love of nursing with my students. He gave me one of the best Christmas gifts that I have ever received, right in time for the celebration of His birth.
As you prepare for this wonderful season of joy, don’t forget to take time to remember the source of all happiness. May God bless you this Christmas and always.
Reflection by Greg Baker
My faith grounds me in fundamental truths, and that makes me very happy.
I am wary of the person who stands on the street corner yelling: “Look at me! I have the truth and you need it, too!” I am convinced that the truth is out there, but it is not something we
can readily possess. Truth is easy to recognize when we encounter it, but it is difficult to categorize or articulate. We grow, through circumstance and grace, into the basic truths of life. We warm up to truth and, sometimes, deepen in truth.
I love that Advent is attached to the image of an expectant mother. Parenthood, it seems, is a roller coaster ride with equal doses of (1) grace and joyfulness and (2) a perpetual loss of control. As a parent I sometimes fight against this inevitability. But on my good days I inhabit the truth taught to me by my three wise children (and by the infant Jesus): life is not just about me and my needs and wants, and I will never be truly happy until I let go and let myself become lost in loving others.
This Christmas we will again celebrate this love of a God who, being love, could not be held back from inhabiting our reality, to become human and show us the path to salvation and happiness. Love is not pristine; it is not utopian. Love is in the daily messes, the unbridled imagination, the conflicts, the neediness, the uncontrollable laughter, the practical worries and the unfinished “to-do” lists. Love is here, and is it ever good! Thank you to my wife, Jen, and my spiritual advisors, Eli, Naomi and Ian, for teaching me truth. Thank you to Emmanuel, God with us, for being this truth and teaching me to let go and enjoy the ride!
Reflection by Jenell Patton
In our culture, there seems to be a difference between happiness and joy. Happiness tends to be fleeting. We think we will be happy when we have accomplished or arrived at a goal and/or destination or purchased something to fill the temporary void within us. But I prefer to draw from depths associated with the biblical concept of joy.
In our faith journeys, we are promised the paradox of suffering and joy. The Advent season is a time when we are to wait and waiting is not a temporary state. Waiting requires patience, endurance, self-control, and determination in holding off the temporary illusion of immediate gratification for the depth associated with joy. For instance, throughout the month of December our boys are constantly bombarded with marketing strategies for a new toy or game. They repeatedly ask can they or we buy them something. And we, being their responsible parents, disappoint them by saying, “No, it’s almost Christmas.” To them it feels like suffering. And yet, I know the joy that awaits them on Christmas morning when they will be surprised by the joy of receiving what they have longed for. So it is with the rest of us.
We learn to understand the importance of waiting for the arrival of Christ’s birth. When we get to sing Joy to the World, The Lord is Come. The joy of knowing that we do not serve a God who knows us from a distance, but rather One who sent Christ to dwell among us – Emmanuel. May we be mindful that joy doesn’t come from the temporary offerings of life. Joy comes through the discipline of being grateful for all we have in our lives. Marianne Williamson expressed similar sentiments when she wrote, “Joy happens to us when we recognize how good things are.”
As we continue to prepare for Christmas, may we focus on the joy of realizing all the good in our lives: we all have jobs at a time when there are many unemployed and we have the privilege of shopping and preparing gifts for family and friends. Let us choose to find joy around us, whether on campus, in our homes, or out about town.
Reflection by Fr. Jim Piszker
Happiness is an elusive state of being. I am not sure that we are supposed to be “happy” all the time in this life. That being said, how does one come to a state of happiness, or, as our
society puts it, “pursue” happiness?
The acceptance of one’s self completely is a good place to begin. Taking responsibility for one’s life and one’s actions. Working toward being “other centered” always provides a pathway to real happiness. Recognizing the things we are able to change and accepting those things that we cannot. Advancing toward providing for succeeding generations in whatever way one is able. Living in and appreciating the moment in which one finds oneself. Trying in whatever way one is able to change the world for the better, i.e., leave it better than you found it. Appreciating all other people for who they are and not for what we expect or desire them to be. Being really “in love” at least once in one’s lifetime. Striving for peace among people.
I think you get the idea. All of us know these things as they have been presented to us in varying forms innumerable times before. They are things that many of us try to work toward in our daily lives, but it never hurts to be reminded of them. I will leave you with probably the best one of all: “Don’t worry, be happy!” My sincere hope is that you have a Happy Christmas and blessed New Year!