Advent is upon us once again, and just in time for me. November was a month that saw the Spirited Life staff on the road for our Fall Workshops (it was great to see so many of you face to face!) and then I traveled with my husband and daughter to New Hampshire for a week of feasting in celebration of Thanksgiving with our family up in that part of the world. By the time the calendar turned to December, I was thoroughly exhausted and feeling woefully unprepared for another round of holiday celebrations only a few weeks away.
But before Christmas comes with all its feasting, we have Advent, as distinct a season as Lent is from Easter. I don’t know about you, but my soul longs for some quiet this time of year. My husband and I chose early in our marriage to keep our gift giving (to one another and extended family) to a minimum, and focus on celebrating Christmas as truly the arrival of Christ’s birth, His gift to us. Keeping the gift giving to simple, homemade items keeps us away from the malls in December (never a pretty sight!) and allows us to be home, baking cookies with our daughter, crafting Christmas surprises, going for walks in our neighborhood to look at all the decorations, singing together, welcoming friends and neighbors for some hot cocoa or a simple meal. The most important thing we do during Advent is hold the space for some silence.
Silence, particularly the waiting silence of Advent, is pretty counter-cultural these days. The old adage, “Good things come to those who wait,” seems to have been thoroughly buried in our cultural memory by the demand for instant gratification. In our high-speed internet world, the question seems to be “Why wait?” Yet scripture, and even just my own weary psyche, tells a different story. We wait because God commands it. We wait because we live in the tension of the “already/not yet.” We wait because for all the blessings in our lives, we still know pain and suffering, and long for the day when all our tears will be wiped away. We wait because it takes a long time to grow a seed into a flower, or to grow a Christian into one who really reflects Christ’s glory to the world. We wait for babies to be born, and for the ill to become well again, and for the dying to breathe their last.
This is holy waiting, not a waste of time. And this holy waiting — it does something to me. It calms me, it quiets me, it reminds me that I am not the center of the universe, that I do not need to “‘perform” to some external standard. It transforms my perception of myself from an overbooked working mom into simply a humble vessel, one small part of a “great cloud of witnesses” who together seek to bear Christ’s light into the world today, as Mary did all those years ago, in silence, in prayer, and in waiting.
To be continued…
–Words and images by Caren Swanson