By Tom Ehrich

With all the commercial hoopla surrounding it, the Advent season begs a personal discipline.

Prayer, study, meditation, worship -- or, in my case, poetry. I plan to write one poem a day during Advent. I can't guarantee their quality -- I am still learning the art of poetry -- but I know poetry helps me to see the same-old things with fresh eyes.

I've also made the decision to write my daily On a Journey meditations on the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) readings, starting this week with Isaiah. That, too, sheds a different light on the faith journey.

This isn't some counter-cultural effort to "put Christ back into Christmas" -- Jesus never left Christmas -- or to wage a counter-offensive against raging commercialism.

The holiday gift-giving season is what it is. I see no point in getting stressed about it. Many people will spend money they don't have to achieve aims they don't understand. That isn't religion's fault. Nor does it suck any oxygen out of the holy season.

Others will be more restrained. That's fine, too. Jesus came for all of us.

In a surprising way, faith has won the battle. Whether people spend lavishly or not, whether they have long lists or short, whether they feel surrounded by love or lonely, God will comfort us all and prepare a way for all exiles to go home.

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