Advent is a time to prepare for Christmas. But how do we prepare? Do we make lists of things we need to do and items we need to buy? Do we spend hours making our travel plans to visit family? Do we serve food to the homeless in our community? Do we spread Christmas cheer? Whichever way you spend it, we might share one thing in common: Preparing for Christmas can be stressful!That’s why I’m grateful for the season of Advent.
Advent gives us a nudge to stop our holiday craziness and, if you’re anything like me, stress about finals at school in order to remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Today’s nudge is about PEACE.
Personally, I struggle with finding ways to encourage you to find peace when there’s so much chaos around our world. Honestly, I freak about that too. I freak out knowing that there’s a lack of creation care for humans, flora and fauna. My heart hurts for this world and the lack of empathy and kindness I observe. Instead of dwelling there too long, I make a conscious decision to stop, breathe, and to look for God’s heartbeat in our world. God’s beating heart reminds me that Their mission in this world is still active, it reminds me that I too can join in and help reduce that very chaos that aims to control us. I breathe in God’s peace, and I exhale my anxiety. When I do this, my focus shifts from my own erratic heart beating to God’s stabilizing heartbeat. As a dancer, I find God’s heartbeat in music and movement, which might be why one of my favorite Puerto Rican traditions during this season is singing aguinaldos at our Parrandas Navideñas.
When I think of how I would prepare myself to receive the Christmas season and celebrate Jesus’ birth into this world, I think of friends and family coming together for our island’s version of caroling. I think of the loud crowd gathering outside of a house, yelling “Asalto” and singing aguinaldos to the sound of traditional instruments like: el Cuatro Puertorriqueño, pleneros, maracas, palitos, and güiros. Originally, kids and young people, particularly those of lower income would go door to door singing aguinaldos (the song) and receiving aguinaldos (a gift). While aguinaldos as gifts are still common, the practice of singing aguinaldos in our parrandas is slightly different. Nowadays, people of all ages gather to surprise a friend with their joyful singing and the gift that’s exchanged is in the form of food and drinks. Since these start around 10PM, homeowners are typically surprised. Once the homeowner opens the door, the party moves inside. Then, as a group, they continue to the next house, and the next, until sunrise.
Parrandas are a loud, joyful, and never-ending visit from your community to remind you that you’re not alone in this season. For some who are not familiar with Parrandas, the spontaneous party can be overwhelming. For me, it is the feeling of home, the feeling of PEACE.
As I look through the crowd at a parranda, I see God’s face in each of those who are present. I see God in who you are and I am comforted. I see God in the way that hosts who weren’t expecting company over open their doors and feed their new guests in what seems to be a never ending source of food. I also see God when our last stop of the night brings in a new day. Here’s when I stop, breathe, and receive God’s peace in the form of colorful brush strokes that paint the night sky with a new day. A new day has come and with this new day comes new opportunities to share that very peace we have received with others.
Now, I know we do not all share the tradition of Parrandas but I hope that you do have a tradition in your community that encourages you to slow down, and to find God’s everlasting peace in this season. If you don’t, then gather some friends and make your own parranda.
Stop. Breathe, and receive God’s PEACE!
Advent is all about learning to wait for God to surprise us in the middle of our nights with bright strokes of Their light that illuminates our paths towards the way of PEACE.
Patricia Cogles (Patty) is married to Ivan Perez and lives in Pasadena, California where she also shares her busy life with her dog, Bella Christina. She was born in Miami, Florida but was raised in Puerto Rico. She moved to Oklahoma in 2011 for her undergraduate studies in ministry and leadership with a focus in youth and family ministries. She also studied Theater Arts, both of these studies at Oral Roberts University.
Patricia is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity from Fuller Theological Seminary in Worship Theology and Arts. She is a worship and dance minister, member of the California-Pacific Annual Conference, coming to UMCTO from La Plaza United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, California; is the West District representative for Camp and Retreat Ministry Council and is part of the Spanglish Design Team.
She is a foodie who loves the beach, dancing, musicals, and horseback ridding. When she's not busy, she loves to travel and learn from other cultures.