Experiments in Advent
On Sunday we lit the second Advent candle in church, which means I’ve been observing Advent for the first time as an adult for about a week and a half. I’m pretty sure you need to practice this tradition for years to be able to really sink down into the season and begin to glimpse the treasures it offers, but, here, quickly, are a few initial observations.
1. Waiting Is Undervalued.
I admit that I may have ignored Advent for years because I didn’t like the idea of waiting for Christmas. As soon as the sun set on Thanksgiving I wanted immediate immersion in all things Christmas. Instant gratification. Get me the tree and the music and the happy feelings! This year, I decided to try waiting for Christmas. And waiting isn’t just sitting around and twiddling my thumbs. It’s preparing. It’s longing and yearning. It’s daring to hope that in the midst of darkness, Christmas is coming. Waiting is necessary, even though culturally we’ve tried to shame it out of existence. We have been taught eliminate any wait time. It is frowned upon to be in between, to not be actively charging into something huge and important and exciting. But isn’t the point of waiting and preparation to be ready, really ready, for what’s to come? My heart is learning to accept waiting, and to accept that it is preparing me for what lies ahead—in this case, the joyousness of Christmas.
2. The Gift of Tradition.
Thanksgiving came and went and the day after I found myself practically hyperventilating as I contemplated everything I had to do to get ready for Christmas (unrealistic expectations included). Our culture has created a secular liturgy of buying and selling and stress that is almost impossible to resist. With that backdrop of craziness and stress, it has been such a gift to set aside time each night to be quiet, to light candles, to read Scripture, and pray. At such a busy time of year, observing Advent may seem like one more added burden, but in reality, the tradition is a gift to us—carving out space in which to experience the peace and love and hope of Christmas, not just it’s commercialism and secularized traditions.
3. Soul Meets Body
It’s amazing to feel your body and soul in alignment. For instance, I never knew that Advent is traditionally a time for fasting, but it makes so much sense. Setting aside certain foods is a great way to physically remember each day that we are waiting for Christ to come and will celebrate when He does. Then we will feast, then we will rejoice.
So there you have some initial thoughts on observing Advent—I am looking forward to pressing on—further up, and further in! May God go with you this Advent and Christmas season.