Advent: A Season for Hope, Faith, Joy and Peace

Advent Reflections by Sister Mary Elizabeth Imler, OSF

Check back here frequently through Christmas for new reflections and inspirations from USF’s vice president of mission integration and university ministry.

The Magi are coming! The three Kings otherwise known as the “Magi” are wrapped in tissue paper for precious keeping. Even though they are considered the rich and famous, they will stand in the background until the feast of the Epiphany, January 6 in the new year. But they still get reserved seating at my manger. All are welcome to celebrate Jesus’ birthing. Sounds like our Mission, to be “a welcoming community.” Is there someone you need to reach out to before this year ends? Jesus’ birth brings the miracles of healing broken relationships, binding up the wounded, feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless which is the real work of Christmas beyond cards and cookies. What riches might I have to share with others?

If the sheep are out of the manger box, a shepherd or shepherdess can’t be far behind. These represent the simple folks in those times. Not necessarily the poor because they had assets in their flock but surely not the rich. They lived by their trade much as most do here at USF. Maybe this is a good day to really think of the talent we each bring to USF and how it fulfills the USF mission. Especially today on this feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patron of all the Americas, may we share Mary’s concern and care for the poor and the powerless. The Advent Calendar of Kindness suggests we simply share a smile to stranger or two or three. Simple gifts for humble people.

If Mary is out of the box, then Joseph must not be far behind.  Actually, Joseph is leading the donkey with pregnant Mary in the statue I referred to yesterday.  He is the silent one, who has no words credited to him in the Gospel stories only references Jesus as the “carpenter’s son”.  I suppose as in the design of marriage, he would be known as Mary’s partner in parenting.  In what ways did he companion Mary and share parenting?   Joseph as a carpenter, what else did he as father teach Jesus besides the trade?  I wonder how helpless he felt in Bethlehem not even able to find a place to stay or during the actual birthing of Jesus.  Helplessness is uncomfortable but pretty common feeling in life, atleast in mine.  Perhaps I might look to Joseph for strength as I am certain Mary and Jesus did.

We start this second week of Advent and beneath the animals in the manger box are the human creatures. On top is a special advent piece with a very pregnant Mary on a donkey. Having just celebrated the feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception December 8th, I think Mary is a perfect one to start adding to the Christmas manger. What do you think of when she comes to mind? In what manner are we pregnant with a newness of life? Whom do we nurture? And who nurtures us? Motherhood is a very special calling. Give thanks for those who are true mothers to us.


Guess who’s coming today? Last day of the first week of advent and the ass is found in the manger box. Why an ass? I think this character brings a bit of JOY and hilarity to the scene. Sometimes I find life just waaaay to serious and we forget especially at a Franciscan place it helps to be intentional about joy and fun. Also in our Catholic heritage, Jesus showed us the way is filled with joy as well as sadness. Isn’t it ironic that the Advent of Kindness calendar suggests that we “Tell a joke to make someone smile” today. Not a bad idea for a random act of kindness! Let’s not be afraid to be a little silly once in a while.

Happy “hump day!” Speaking of humps… the next animal out of the box is the camel. Only a “one hump” camel do we have. This animal always stays in the background until the three kings come after Christmas. But their hump gives them what they need to persevere through the waiting. What sustains you through the dry times? What is the longing you hold out for in  this encounter with God? What do you need to hang in the background “until He comes?” May you find deep within you what you need to persevere through this Advent until Christmas comes to your heart. But be ready because God comes in surprising ways! Peace this Wednesday.

Advent Greetings – 
We begin the season of advent awaiting the end of classes, finals, Winter Commencement, holiday break but really it begins our waiting for Christmas. The real “reason for the season.” Let this be a season of kindness. I offer you a calendar to mark the days in small acts of respect and compassion. We can make the world believe again by bringing the love of Jesus present in our corner.  Journey with me and make USF a place of warmth. We can do this… together. Peace today!