On December 1st, the season of Advent quietly ushered in a new church year with its uniquely poignant mix of anticipation and longing.
My three-year-old, to whom minutes feel like years, jumped right to the end of the month and began asking if it was Christmas every single day. My oldest, on the other hand, has been around the Christmas block before and loves to point out everything that’s great along the road to December 25th.
After a couple of days, the youngest stopped asking about his future presents and started asking about the gifts of that day – Who’s turn is it to add a magi to the nativity scene? What shape will my chocolate be today? How many candles do we light tonight?
They are learning through candles and chocolate and calendars that Advent is about more than just the destination, it is a journey worth paying attention to.
Every year I long to pay attention to the journey of Advent. This is the church season I expect the most from, and perhaps consequently the season in which I am most frequently disappointed. The liturgical themes of longing, waiting, and stillness are so easily lost in a crush of parties, shopping and performances. I love Advent for its strange mix of triumphant choruses and minor keys, but sometimes in all the glitter of Christmas my Advent longing ends up feeling out of place.
Advent encourages us to expand our hearts, to make room for more than just superficial cheer. These precious weeks hold our pain and our joy together, highlighting the beauty of the incarnate God who places himself in the middle of human suffering in order to redeem it. This time, more than any other, reminds me that we are called to be present to the realities of our world, even as we rejoice in our glorious future with Christ.
There is goodness in living this season, rather than just running through it. Christ has come and will come again, but Christ is also here with us in the waiting.
What would it take to journey through Advent this year instead of running through it?
For me, it took discussing holiday plans with family in advance, getting shopping out of the way, and booking a retreat of silence at a local retreat center. I also took a healthy dose of ‘holding-traditions-loosely’ so I have freedom to improvise as we go. I guess we’ll see how it goes!
If you are looking for something to ground you in the coming weeks, here’s a few of my favorites (no sponsorship, just resources I have enjoyed!)
- Advent Article by Tish Harrison Warren
- Living the Christian Year by Bobby Gross
- Mosaic Bible Advent booklet
- Some of my thoughts on joy in the midst of pain
No matter what Advent looks like for you, may you find Christ in it. May you experience the kind of joy that can acknowledge pain. May it be a journey, rather than just a destination.
© 2019 Jacqueline Tisthammer. All Rights Reserved.