Faith Matters: How do you want to be remembered?

The Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington at the First Congregational Church of Whately.

The Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington at the First Congregational Church of Whately. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington at the First Congregational Church of Whately.

The Rev. Cynthia Crosson-Harrington at the First Congregational Church of Whately. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ


First Congregational Church of Whately

Published: 12-08-2023 4:01 PM

Modified: 12-08-2023 6:28 PM

Recently, I came across a poem called “The Dash” by Linda Ellis. Paraphrased — with apologies to the author — the poem says that it is not our birth date or death date that matter when we leave this Earth, but rather the dash between the two.

The dash represents all that we have been on Earth, not what we have owned or achieved necessarily but rather how we have lived our lives with others. Have we been kind, understanding, helpful and compassionate to others? Have we given of ourselves and loved our neighbor as Christ would have us do? Perhaps that is something to think about during this Advent season.

Advent is from the Latin word adventus meaning ‘coming’ and is celebrated by Christians during the four weeks before Christmas. We see the four weeks of Advent as a time to prepare one’s self for the coming of Christ — be it the remembrance of the first coming or the anticipation of Christ’s coming again.

The scripture for the Sunday before Advent, or Christ the King Sunday, is all about judging between the sheep and the goats. Sheep are those who have behaved as Christ taught us, caring for one another and doing what would be pleasing to God and the goats, are those who have not behaved in such a manner. Verses 35-36 and 40 of Matthew 25 tell it all in praise of the sheep: Jesus says, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me … And Jesus will … say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me.’ As we move into Advent, perhaps this Biblical passage is the reminder of our task as we seek to prepare for Christ’s coming.

You may now see where my mind was going as I read the poem “The Dash” as I prepared to write a Faith Matters column for Advent.

I hear the news today and I wonder how many people are really worried about their dash. It makes me very sad to hear how little some people are thinking about the hungry, the homeless, and those who need our compassion. But I also believe that people of faith can make a difference in the world. Almost every faith speaks of service to one another. For faith that does not prompt one to extend a hand to another is no more than a self-satisfied state of being.

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During the holiday season we are surrounded by messages of love and giving. Perhaps this is why so many of us feel joyful at this time of year. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could carry this sentiment to the rest of the year? It would make for less self-absorption that often leads to a me-against-them attitude.

I am reminded of the wonderful Christmas story during World War II when both German and Allied troops stopped the fighting on Christmas Eve to join in singing “Silent Night” — each in his own language. What if, during this time of Advent especially, we each extend a hand to another in peace and fellowship, thought more of those who were in need and found ways to offer ourselves in ministering to them. I firmly believe that love and kindness are contagious; it just takes enough people to spread the message.

It seems especially important this year to pause our frantic holiday decorating and shopping and think about the true meaning of the season — the birth of Jesus and all that he taught us. If we give our attention to loving and serving our neighbor instead of worrying that we get just the right gift, I suspect that there would be no concern about our dashes.

The First Congregational Church of Whately is a small faith community that welcomes all no matter who you are or where you are in your faith journey. We worship at 10 a.m. on Sundays, at 177 Chestnut Plain Road. We also provide a Zoom link (available on our Facebook page) for those not able to attend in person. Our Christmas Eve service of readings and carols will be at 7 p.m. on Dec. 24. We welcome anyone who would like to join us for this service or on any Sunday.