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Advent’s offer of a ‘Great Reset’


The season invites us to practice seeing things differently

By Jason Whitehead | Presbyterians Today

Couple walking hand-in-hand in the snow.

Olya Kobruseva/Pexels

We are creatures of habit. We like predictability and embrace routines, many of which provide a measure of stability when the world shifts around us. The experience of living in a pandemic for most of 2020, though, has disrupted any predictability in our lives. The senseless deaths of Black men and women brought attention to an epidemic of racism, calling into question assumptions we made about the world. Add to these destabilizing circumstances the sheltering-in-place guidelines that brought the inability to physically go to the places that have given us a respite from the world, and we have a recipe for ongoing fear, anger and distress.

It is safe to say that 2020 has been a year no one wanted. However, that doesn’t mean it has to be a lost year. I’ve heard some people refer to 2020 as the “Great Reset” — a time to take stock of our lives, offering a chance to inventory how we live, move and breathe, in order to become the people God calls us to be.

The Advent season is perfect for exploring the possibility of a reset. This season has always been about the Savior sent to reset the world. And every year, we remember a revolutionary act of love that gives us pause and shows us what it means to be disciples. For millennia, we have celebrated a season that glorifies change and calls us to soften our hearts to the world and people around us.

This year, though, we need to be intentional in the spiritual practice of resetting our lives. Many of us will not be returning to physical worship spaces for Advent as the health risks are still too great, and so we must actively seek the holy among us. For that to happen, we must be willing to look around the same house or apartment and at the same people, see them with new eyes, as well as hear them with new ears. This resetting is in itself a revolutionary act of love.

Every morning, I go for a walk with my wife. I just feel better when I do it. However, I don’t always feel good while I’m doing it. It’s cold some mornings. We have to wear masks that are uncomfortable. It’s early, and I’m a night owl. If I weigh the pros and cons, then there are more reasons to stay in bed than to go on those early morning walks.

But my walk is not just a walk. It is a chance to be present with my spouse. It is a moment to appreciate my health. It is an opportunity to welcome a new day with vigor and creativity. Our walks are not perfunctory health prescriptions. They are moments when there are opportunities to see — and be — more than the sum of my parts. If nothing else, they are moments to feel gratitude, and there is nothing more theologically important during Advent than to experience gratitude.

If Advent teaches us nothing else, then let it teach us that a great reset can happen. The only thing we have to do is be willing to see how God’s love is infused into the everyday moments, experiences and objects of our lives.

Honestly, this is hard work. It requires us to be mindful about bringing Emmanuel, God with us, in every part of our lives. Moreover, it requires us to be creative and flexible in how we approach our lives together. Advent’s time of preparation and anticipation is a lesson in how to transform the things we take for granted every day into everyday sacred gifts.

Jason Whitehead is a therapist, pastor, educator and coach at Mosaic Insight in Denver.

Put into Practice

The Advent ‘Great Reset’ Challenge

Start slow and small. Look around you. Name something out loud that you appreciate. Take a moment and be grateful for that object, person or even experience. Don’t be grateful for your ownership. Be grateful for its presence.

Imagine now what your life would be like without the object or person that you named. What would you lose? What would be different?

Now expand your awareness. What might other people be experiencing who don’t have the same opportunities as you? What might they have that you don’t? What do you have that they don’t? Where does your heart break in these connections? What does that call you to do or become?

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