Advent begins next Sunday, the start of a new year in Christian calendars. The word Advent comes from the Latin Adventus meaning coming. It is a season of waiting with anticipation for the coming of Christ and the incarnation, God made flesh, culminating in the season of Christmas.
In Advent we are invited to be present to the tension between all of the not-yets of this world and the signs of the Kingdom we see here and now represented in Emmanuel, meaning God-with-us. It is a tension between the promise we hope for and the glimmers of hope present at every turn. Advent is a season of holy waiting for the fulfillment of a Promise of peace, reconciliation, and healing. Advent is bracketed by a shopping season in which our culture offers its own promises through the purchases we make, usually of youth and beauty or sexual prowess. What is the promise we are waiting for? We live in a culture of instant gratifications, we are not encouraged to wait for anything.
I am not going to decry the culture though, as much as I hate the frenzy of Christmas shopping and consumerist values. Of course, we need a critical lens through which to view this spectacle. However, I am choosing to celebrate some of the valuable things I see. I am hopeful at the heart of the impulse that sends people out into wet and wintry nights to find ways to symbolize their love for others. There is a beautiful desire to share time and joy with loved ones which I honor. I have to believe behind the abundant display of lights everywhere is a deep-seated hope and longing for light at the heart of the world to guide us. Each year there is always talk about how the stores have hijacked Christmas, and yet I have never looked to those bastions of consumerism to tell me how to celebrate my holy feasts. We have a choice of who to listen to for guidance and about how to be present to this sacred time of waiting.
One of my favorite images for Advent is pregnancy and the promise of nurturing something new to birth. Mary, a poor young girl was offered a choice and she said “yes.” My Advent discipline is to wake up to the new ways God is inviting me to give birth to Christ in our world and to say “yes” as fully as I can. I will also tend to all the ways my life says “no” and refuses to offer space for that birthing. Waiting requires patience and attentiveness. Birthing takes time, nine months to bring a life into fullness. Giving birth demands that we make space within us for God’s holy surprise.
How will you pay attention in this season of waiting? What new thing are you birthing into the world? Will you say “yes”?
-Christine Valters Paintner
Hi Sally, thank you for your kind words, I think holding out hope is a very brave and necessary thing.
Thank you Cathy! Your Vespers services sound wonderful, just the thing to remember the gifts of the season.
Wendy, I remember those Advent calendars too, leaving an opening is a beautiful discipline indeed.
Such wonderful and thoughtful responses I have evoked, I am grateful for everyone’s sharing and would love to continue to hear from others.
When I was little, Advent didnt REALLY start for me until December first when we got to start eating the chocolate from our cute German Advent calendars, lol. I have to keep reminding myself it starts a bit before that!
About the birth question, I was just reading this Medieval novel where a knight when questioned said this:
“I accept things as they are and do what I can with them and try to leave an opening, that’s all…a chink–a loophole–for the light to shine through…”
That really struck me and so that’s what I’d say, leaving an opening for the Light (Christ) to shine through : )
Christine, Your posts are wonderful and so thought provoking.
Our Daughters of the King Chapter will be assisting in leading Vespers two nights a week at church. The service begins in an almost dark church, with 30 minutes of silence before the spoken part of the service begins. It is a most beautiful, simple, austere service that seems to be the exact opposite of the hustle and bustle of the rest of the way the season is “celebrated”. There is the beauty and holiness of the quietness of the season to listen and hear God’s word.
Christine this is beautiful- thank you so much, I love advent, the sense of expectation and the renewing of hope, like you I am wary of the secular and commercial side of Christmas, but I hold out hope for humanity through it…come Lord Jesus come… let us see you, let us experience you. help us to reveal your love in the world this advent!
What wonderful responses!
Me, your Advent plans sound wonderful, I hope to hear more about it as it unfolds!
Thank you musing disciple, your Advent discipline sounds perfect.
Thanks Lisa and welcome, I love the image of the One who continually comes. God at work in every moment.
Cathleen, your barn sounds like the perfect place to contemplate the mysteries of the season. If I can contribute in any way to your experience, then I am blessed.
Love and blessings, Christine
This Advent I hope to ponder much under the roof of my barn, opening to all that God is desiring to birth within me. I feel more deeply connected with those I love, and more aware of the pain in the world ~ a tension to hold with prayer. And this Advent I sense I will be fed by the rich words of blogs such as yours! Blessings, Cathleen
My discipline, perhaps my challenge is to remain hopeful and waiting. To know that there is One who came and who continually comes. I want to remain open to his coming over and over again.
I have just discovered your blog in the past couple of days and it has set me well on my way to openness. Thank you.
What a beautiful post. Thank you for this. You write so beautifully and thoughtfully.
My own advent discipline is to continually recognize God’s presence in everything, to be more patient and careful about discerning His presence and His voice.
Mine is simple. My gift making and wrapping is done. The cards are ready to mail on the thirtieth.Now I can focus on what I’ve been trying to do for the past three years.
For three years, I’ve been trying to create a daily advent event in our home. I’ve had a hard time gathering (or even finding) ideas and materials to do it and I have a hard time even finding the time to do it. Often, I fit it in around all the gift making and decorating and other holiday events and ends up being mostly last minute efforts. This year I have all I need – including time. We lit the first candle in our wreath last night. On December first, every day will include little thoughts and activities. I want to write a lot this advent – get it down – help myself remember.