❝Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.’❞ Luke 9:1-3
Reflection by the Rev. Dcn. Leeann CulbreathSometimes Advent feels a lot like Lent.
Maybe it’s because both sacred seasons represent a journey from darkness into light, from despair into the heart of God’s promises. And such a journey is hard, with many doubts, distractions, and dangers along the way. So we make an extra effort, through new practices and disciplines (like following this blog!), to help keep us on the path and inching forward.
It’s easy to get bogged down, though, especially when our culture tells us that the way to Christmas joy is through accumulation—more gifts, more parties, more food, more decorations. What a stark contrast to Jesus’ instructions to his disciples as he sent them forth into a dark and broken world:
Take nothing. Nada.
That may seem harsh and extreme, but it conveys an important spiritual truth: Less is more. The less our lives are cluttered and weighed down with material, spiritual, and emotional baggage, the more free we are to walk into the place of love, peace, and healing that God intends for us.
Less fear, more joy.
Less stuff, more giving.
Less judgment, more love.
Less busyness, more time.
Less ego, more Christ.
As this familiar Shaker hymn goes, “’Tis the gift to be simple, ‘tis the gift to be free.”
It is gift, not deprivation, to empty ourselves and our lives to become more available to God’s love and guidance on the hard journeys. Author Richard Rohr calls this the “spirituality of subtraction,” recognizing that even the best spiritual disciplines and our ever-growing list of benevolent “to-dos” can also sink us deeply into the mire of self-righteousness.
I hope we will all lighten the load this Advent, whatever that means for each of us, so that in a few weeks we can arrive anew to the valley of Love and Delight.
-The Rev. Dcn. Leeann Culbreath