I grew up in Central Florida, so snow was not something I encountered a lot. And when I went to college in Atlanta, the few snow storms we had shut down the city. Snow was a beautiful rarity that came and went too quickly. But when I was 31 I moved to New England in the middle of winter. One day not long after I was standing outside my car, pumping gas in snowy weather with temperatures falling fast, wondering what in the world had possessed me to move north.
I’ve lived in New England for almost five years now. Over half that time I have lived in the Vermont town where I pastor. On my second Sunday at the church it snowed. It was the middle of May. That winter I was bundled up in sweaters and jackets, scraping ice off my windshield, and shoveling my way out of the driveway some mornings. The last thing I wanted more of was snow.
But the longer I lived in town, the more I realized that the snow that frustrated me so much meant something very different to others. I live in a ski town, and the more it snows, the longer the lift operators and snow groomers and even waitresses and cooks have steady work. The first time someone prayed for snow in church I was surprised. Who wants more of that stuff? Then I realized they were praying for their livelihood, and for the ability to take care of their families.
It’s my third winter in Vermont, and it has already snowed quite a bit. I’ve learned when to put the snow tires on my car, how to walk on ice without falling down, and how to salt the front walk. But, more than that, I’ve learned that I actually love the snow.
It started when I began to see what it meant to other people: hope, possibility, life. When I realized that the minor inconveniences snow caused me were nothing compared to the major problems a lack of snow caused others, I began to reevaluate my outlook on snow days. Now I think that few things are as comforting or beautiful as coming home to a warm house on a snowy night. And part of that comfort comes from the fact that I know my neighbors can rest easier as well.
For me, Advent is about a changing of perspective. It’s about preparing our hearts for the challenges that the child who is coming will give to us. One challenge is to stop looking at only what we want, and to start looking at what is good for our neighbors as well. There’s no better time to start preparing than now, in Advent, for how we will open our hearts to that challenge, and to the one who gives it to us.
This reflection originally appeared in Huffington Post Religion’s Advent live blog, found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/01/advent-2012-a-season-of-waiting-before-christmas-photos_n_2221918.html#36_advent-reflection-day-3-advent-is-about-a-changing-of-perspective