During this sacred season, students respond to the question: "How has being at Candler during Advent changed your perspective about the meaning of Christmas?"

Jeania Ree Moore"At Candler, the Advent season is full of the traditional markings: wreaths, candles, and poinsettias abound. Along with Advent chapel services, they initiate our entrance into the season of anticipation, expectation, and careful preparation.

However, each year, something has occurred to disrupt the seasonal anticipation and sense of measured readiness. Whether manifesting in my own life or in the life of the community, whether on a large scale or in the day-to-day, these disruptions resist the spirit of planned expectation. They resist the traditional attitude of careful preparation. They have changed my understanding of the meaning of Advent and Christmas.

These disruptions are a reminder that the reality of Christmas is the in-breaking of God into our world. The season of Advent is thus expecting the unexpected, anticipating the upending of our world to usher in God's own. Candler's recent ‘die-in’ protest encapsulated this more fully and more powerfully than any other event. Our protest of the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and New York, and the broader desecration of life they represent, was a true manifestation of Advent. A holy disruption, it was an anguished witness to the in-breaking of a God whose very Being defends the phrase that should never have to be uttered: Black life matters.

Candler has taught me to await the unexpected, to expect the coming of Love in its unanticipated forms, to welcome and wonder at the disruption that is the in-breaking of God in this world. That is the season of Advent, I have learned; that is the coming of Christ."

- Jeania Ree Moore, third-year MDiv student

Matthew Cavedon"My theology has become a lot more incarnational. By studying a variety of systematic theologians including Saint Augustine, Karl Barth, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, I have come to appreciate the significance of the Word taking flesh in ever deeper ways: Christ's entry into the world as a human being is the great reharmonization of creation with its Creator. What a tremendous joy the Nativity calls forth!"

- Matthew Cavedon, second-year JD/MTS student

Shannon Mayfield "Christmas is often the one season in which we think about giving, not getting. Giving to those we love, to those who need, to those we don't know. The thing about Candler is this: these people live that every day of the year. That feeling that convinces us of the fundamental goodness of humanity is always in effect at Candler. The community here has taught me, by their example, that Christmas ought not be a season, but an outlook on life, a way of approaching every day and every person with the love that God demonstrated to the world."

- Shannon Mayfield, third-year MDiv student 

Sari Brown "During my first semester at seminary, I have lost many of my illusions of control over how people view me. Maybe God is trying to empty me of all my former gifts so that I can receive something new. The Spirit seems to move easiest in hollowed-out bodies. I suppose it is appropriate that this Advent season, I am left with nothing more than to wait for God to become incarnate in me.

Yesterday I played Mary in a liturgical drama at chapel. The birth of Jesus was foretold by a homeless, impatient angel Gabriel holding a cardboard sign on the street, and Mary was a stressed-out young professional in the throes of wedding planning. I assumed it would just come across as a funny, light-hearted piece. People didn't laugh as much as I thought they would. I have little experience with acting. I could do nothing more than make Mary awkward, uncertain and girlish, like me.

To my surprise, several people came and told me afterwards how deeply my portrayal of Mary had touched them. One fellow student told me that it had brought tears to her eyes when I said, "I am the servant of the Lord." I had said it like a question rather than a statement. I realized then that I really had been playing myself, in a way. I identify more with Mary than I ever have this Advent. She was just a young girl, given an enormous and illogical task from God. To have a baby when she was a virgin. To bear God in her womb.

How on earth does one do such a thing? Certainly not of her own initiative. That is why God has brought down the mighty from their thrones and lifted up the lowly. Only God can fill me with the good things that I need to do the beautiful. Only God can empty me out enough that I recognize my need. So that I can become bumbling, inadequate, and unapologetically authentic."

- Sari Brown, third-year MDiv student  (Sari wrote this as part of a blog post during her first semester at Candler. Read the entire entry.)