Thank God it’s Advent.
I won’t take up space here on my blog with a length digression into why a good Adventist girl like me observes the seasons of the liturgical year — if you have the faintest semblance of curiosity about that, read this article I wrote on the subject (for which I never got paid the amount promised, but that’s OK, because writing it was a useful clarifying experience for me).
Let’s just say that I like the idea of rhythms in time, rhythms and seasons that help to shape my spiritual, personal and family life.
I probably started observing Advent about the same time I started doing NaNoWriMo — perhaps not a coincidence. November is already a busy month, even more so if you add writing 50,000+ words of fiction into the mix. I like to get Christmas shopping done before the end of November to avoid the madness of Retail Christmas in the stores and malls. If I want to remove myself from the hectic Santanic pace of the December shopping frenzy then it helps to get these chores out of the way early, so I can enjoy lots of quality time at home by the fireplace in December.
Also, these last two years I have found November to be an emotionally tiring month at work. Our students start in September with high hopes and good intentions, but by late October the same issues that kept them from finishing high school in the first place are beginning to reassert themselves and November sees a lot of them struggling with attendance, struggling to stay in school, dealing with problems that sometimes seem overwhelming even to me. November, for various reasons, requires a lot of me.
I also end up sacrificing a lot of sensible things in November — things like enough sleep, exercise, and prayer. Part of the discipline of Advent, for me, is re-introducing those things into my life.
Mostly, though, Advent is about waiting, and I am trying to practice it at home so that the children will have a chance of learning that some things are worth waiting for — not just presents under the tree on Christmas morning, but the incarnational Presence of Christ in our world and in our lives.
On Friday night we lit the first candle in our Advent wreath. The animals from our Nativity scene were hidden around the room and placed on their shelf as the children found them (Christopher told me they weren’t hidden well enough, so I will have to do better with the shepherds next weekend). Gradually, we begin to move towards Christmas and its season of celebration. Now we are in Advent, which (ideally) is a time of silence, and simplicity, and waiting.
It’s impossible to really keep it that way, of course, in a world dedicated to the belief that Christmas is a hopping, shopping, non-stopping frenzy that begins the day after Hallowe’en. Even I, as you saw from my last blog, bow to the necessity of decorating the workplace for Christmas on December 1. Retail Christmas is the reality of our society and it can’t be entirely denied or ignored.
But I can try. While I clear away the shelves that hold the Advent wreath and the Nativity scene, I can clear away little spaces in the corners of my life, for this short reflective season between the busyness of November and the bustle of Christmas. Lighting the first Advent candle always makes me happy, makes me feel a sense of quiet which is badly needed in my busy life.
Whatever and however you celebrate in December, I hope it will be a time when busyness is at least equally balanced with peace, joy and hopeful expectation in your home.