Each of you given a bag of jelly beans and grab a tissue (just in case). Don’t eat them yet. There are 28 of them. One for each day of advent, so it might be a lesson in discipline: to not eat the whole bag at once and to remember to eat a bean each day. Each bag contains sweet jelly bellies. Each bag contains some Bertie Botts Every Flavor Jelly Beans (from Harry Potter); if you don’t know what that means, it means there there are possibly some really yucky flavored beans in your bag…
At this point, you may choose to eat one of your beans. It might be yummy and sweet. It might be yucky. Of course, please don’t eat a jelly bean if you should not be eating a jelly bean for any medical reason!
We come again to the season of Advent. The season of waiting and quiet. The season of darkness before the light. Waiting for Jesus/Light to be born. Waiting for the coming again of Jesus/Love. Waiting for Jesus/Love to fully light our individual hearts.
Waiting is hard. In the waiting, we have expectations that when the light does come, it will be good. Bright and cheery. The answer to all of our prayers. Waiting is hard. Waiting brings out a lot of our worries and fears. Waiting often brings out the worst in our behaviors. We’re waiting and watching. When we wait and watch, we often come up against…judgement.
We see this in a lot of discord in “how things are supposed to be done”.
We all love the idea of the Light. The Sun. The Son. Hope, Love, Joy, Peace. We love a baby, just coming to light, unfolding. There’s hope and sweetness. And there are our own expectations, desires, and judgements, because we know it never unfolds perfectly and that is scary.
There’s a lot of resistance to “how many Christmas gifts kids get these days” and (sigh) “when I was a kid (fill in the blank)”. Perhaps the Christmas gift giving is the perfect lesson for kids in this season of…waiting. Without even knowing it, we’re teaching our kids to wait and pause and learn to handle expectation, uncertainty, worry. And the gifts/Gift(s) to come.
Often, we’re disappointed. It came, but it wasn’t what we expected and it feels we waited so long for it and then…it’s not what we wanted. There isn‘t enough. Or it isn’t the right toy. Or we were given something we really didn’t want. Or it’s something embarrassing. Perhaps, that’s how we learn to receive (and give) with grace.
Sometimes, I think we didn’t learn the lesson quite fully. This season comes around and we’re waiting, doing our own thing, watching, and constantly judging what “other people are doing”. We do it without even noticing it. We have expectations of this season and other people aren’t living up to our expectations. Because we want it to be right. Just right…but it can’t be “right”. Can it?
We are all going through different things. Some of us embrace the coming light with family, joy, fun, celebration, dancing and singing!! Some of us are settling into the gift of the darkness in quiet and solitude and inner reflection. Some of us want company. Some of us want to be alone. Mostly, it’s a little of both in different proportions for each of us. And as the light unfolds and shines in the darkness, sometimes it’s shining on things we don’t want to face. Illness. Loss. Loneliness. Grief. We want to curl in and cry.
Just because there is light coming, doesn’t mean there isn’t still a lot of darkness left to go through. Too often, we expect sweetness with the light (toffee) and we get something else (earwax). Yes, there are possibly ear wax flavored beans…
Light and Truth are sometimes a blessing and goodness. Sometimes a trial and a burden.
We’re a community of mixed people with mixed things going on. We’re also like the bagful of jelly beans. And we’re dynamic. Sometimes we, ourselves, are a bag of sweetness and delight. Sometimes we, each of us, is a bag of the yucky stuff. More often a little bit of everything, but we try really hard just to focus on the sweet beans or we’re stuck focused on the yucky beans. Why do I always get the icky bean?
It is true that when we shine the light, there is yucky in every sweetness and there is sweetness in every yucky.
As a mixed bag, how do we deal with our expectations? Do we worry that we might be biting into a yucky bean and hope for the the sweet? Do we worry too much? Do we dare take chances and trust in whatever we get? Do we throw the whole bag away because there might be some yuckiness in the sweetness? Do we give up? Do we get upset that some people seem to have a bag full of sweetness and our bag seems full of yucky beans? Do we decide that things are unfair? Do we point fingers? Do we decide that we’re unlucky and not blessed? Do we give up on Love and Light and Waiting and unFolding? Do we give up on the Gifts because we got five days in a row of yucky jelly beans?
As a mixed bag of jelly beans, how do we blend and help and support one another? On the days when we’re eating the yucky bean, how can we help to bring out the sweetness to help one another to get through? On the days when we’re eating the sweet bean, can we be kind to those eating the yucky bean? Can we remember we’ve all been eating the yucky bean and we’ve all been eating the sweet bean and try to rejoice when others are joyful and be there when others are down? Can we find the balance?
Balance; balance isn’t perfect equilibrium. We’re never only eating the yucky beans. In fact, there is more sweetness potential in your bag than potential yuckiness. I know this, because I filled the bag that way to remind us that we’ve been given a great Gift of life and wonderful people and beautiful nature and clean air and delightful water. We are blessed. We are more blessed than not. Sometimes, we forget to notice that our life is mostly filled with the sweetest jelly beans. We’ve been given a great Gift that sweetens up even the most disgusting of the jelly beans of our lives. And our work is to help people through the yucky beans.
It’s not always “our way”. No one should be dancing and singing or everyone should be singing and dancing. No music or everyone should be enjoying the music. No lights or everyone must have lights! We have to meet somewhere in the middle and that middle is just plain…Love and Kindness.
Can you seek extra sweetness on the days you ate the yucky bean? Or can you use those days to turn inward into quiet until the sweetness returns? On the sweetness days, can you listen to the yucky beans around you and seek for what they need and give them comfort and quiet and grace?
Can you be the helper?
Can you balance the light and the dark dance of the Holy Days of waiting that bring out the sweetness and delight, the bitter, and the bittersweet.
Will you commit to tasting from your bag of beans each day? Can you taste your bean each day and trust that there will be more sweetness than not, even when there are days filled with bogeys, the earwax, and the vomit. Even on those days, can you still count the blessings and be kind (to others and yourself)? Can you stay with it, even when you want to spit it all out and quit?…
…Can you find contentment on the days that the really, really yucky bean comes out, knowing that sweeter days (and light) are ahead? Can you sit with it? Taste it? Take the lessons from it? Take the sweetness in the yucky, because it’s a jelly bean, every one is filled with sugar and sweetness, even when it tastes bad in the moment.