“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Last year, I had finally mastered the Christmas light display at our home. I was so delighted with the fruits of my labor that I even affixed some typed notes to the light strands as I tucked them away for another year. I promised future me that what took days would only take me hours next year. With a couple of beautiful days in Pennsylvania, I decided that I would put the lights up early. As I took out each carefully wrapped set and placed them against their appropriate tree, my meticulous notes reminded me to start from the top, to end in certain places, to extend to certain branches. Within a few short hours, the lights were up and ready for an amazing reveal. "How do they turn on Dad?" my one daughter asked. "We just run some extension cords to the outer outlets of course," I responded in my triumphant dad voice. "What extension cords?" she replied. Trying not to show my internal dread, I quickly ran down to the basement and saw two extension cords popping out of one bin and a third being used as some type of lasso for a baby doll. As I completed my unintended, hours-long scavenger hunt around the house, I dumped the pile of outdoor cords of all different lengths on the front lawn. How do I connect 5 different light locations to 3 different power sources using 20 different cords and 6 multi-outlet taps? The ghost of SAT-past instantly haunted me. I tried combination after combination, tape measures, and measuring with my steps. Days later, just short of giving up and giving the Home Depot more of my hard-earned money, I finally figured out the combination. My now very bored daughter was no longer impressed. "Guess next year you should start with where the power comes from."
As I rolled my eyes, I couldn’t help but think of her suggested note for next year. How often in life and leadership do I dive into the tactics and forget to start with the source? How many times in my faith is the Lord an afterthought in my practice, a mere assumption in my activities, rather than the place to start? It doesn’t matter how right I get the technique if I miss the underlying purpose altogether. How much brighter would my light be if I started from the source and extended from there? As we begin this Advent, may we all begin with the ultimate Source of all light and love. Happy Advent!
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