Today begins the season of Advent. It’s that special time of year where we prepare our souls for the coming of Christ at Christmas. I have come to love Advent, but if I’m honest, it has been a discipline. When the rest of the world is in full-blown Christmas mode, there is a shift to reserve oneself for a time of reflection and anticipation. My husband and I have adopted tools to help aid this process. We decorate slowly and wait until the week before Christmas to put up the tree. We light candles in the evenings and devotions and prayers in the dark. All these things are meant to posture us in this season of waiting, hoping, and anticipation.
But what if you don’t need any of that?
This year, there are no candles.
No minor Christmas decorations.
No shifts or posturing.
This year, Advent has come to us.
As I write this, I am surrounded by cardboard boxes. In 5 days, we will load all these boxes into a big truck and drive halfway across the country to our new home in Texas. There, we begin a new life.
New job. New community. New routine. New surroundings.
And even though we have been gearing-up for this move since August, there is something in the long wait that has made it easier and harder all at the same time. There is a world waiting for us in Texas. There is work to be done and lots to explore. But today, we are in Georgia; in our old life and friends and community and responsibilities. We are trying to be present here because, once we leave, this chapter closes and the next one opens. While we will be back to visit and we have plenty of folks we are staying in touch with, there is a powerful reality of all choices made in this life. Once we step over a threshold, the door closes firmly behind us. Choices have been made. Our minds and souls must relocate with our bodies. There is a loud ticking clock in the back of my head, and it will not cease until that threshold is crossed in a few days.
So, this year, there is no need to discipline myself for Advent. Life, it seems, has reduced itself to waiting, hoping, and anticipation all on its own. Instead of candles to light and decorations to hang, our Advent is paper plates (because the kitchen is packed), evenings under the stars (because there are few creature comforts left in our cottage), and empty walls that echo back, not just a lack of festivity, but a reminder that all is dust and vapor after all. The truly crushing weight of one’s possessions hits home when we are forced to literally carry them to a new place. Beware fetters made of gold that come with warranties.
I have long kept this Advent reflection from Jan L. Richardson:
"The season of Advent means there is something on the horizon the likes of which we have never seen before ... What is possible is to not see it, to miss it, to turn just as it brushes past you. And you begin to grasp what it was you missed, like Moses in the cleft of the rock, watching God’s [back] fade in the distance. So stay. Sit. Linger. Tarry. Ponder. Wait. Behold. Wonder. There will be time enough for running. For rushing. For worrying. For pushing. For now, stay. Wait. Something is on the horizon."
I may not know what is on the horizon for you, my friends, but for each of us, it is caught up in the celebration of Christ’s Incarnation. Somewhere in our story is a much bigger Story we are all apart of because of Christ. So, in the waiting, hoping, and anticipation of this season, whether you are disciplining yourself to linger in the stillness; or if you are, like us, sunk down in the necessity of slowness and simplicity – may we all see Christ. If we can detach for a moment, transforming this from a season of hurry to a season of beholding, we will participate with the Spirit in experiencing the Incarnation of Christ that breaths out and in everything in our lives for His gospel.
This year, Advent is cardboard boxes, forwarding addresses, and checklists. But it is an
Advent like no other as we tilt our eyes to the horizon. I pray that you will join us and that these next few weeks will be times of wonder and hope found in the details and the dark.