Advent (from the Latin word adventus meaning “coming“) is a season observed in many Western Christian churches, a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.
I preached at First Presbyterian Church on the first sunday of Advent. In my sermon I encouraged the congregation to slow down and to wait, to anticipate the coming of Christ, to intentionally practice the discipline of the not yet. My urging was rooted not in my own success in this area, but in the difficulty I have in slowing down and focusing on the now rather than the soon-to-be.
This advent has been challenging, as most of them are for me. December is always a month for significant charitable giving so it’s easy to focus on year end fundraising and in the process minimize the coming of Christ. It’s also final exam time. With a full-time graduate student in our house this year, we’ve experienced the additional press of papers and exams not to mention stomach bugs and colds.
So here we are in the last week of Advent preparing for the coming of our Lord on December 25 three days from now.
I feel unfulfilled in my Advent experience–shouldn’t it be more than this? What’s wrong with me?
As I consider the waning days of this season, I think that the Lord is inviting me to do several things:
- Slow down. For me this sometimes looks like giving myself permission to get less done, both at work and around the house. It doesn’t mean working less, it means working and living with greater focus and a greater sense of being present in the moment I am in, rather than finding my mind elsewhere–tomorrow, December 31, or even five years from now.
- Practice ritual. Many of us are wired in such a way that ritual or rhythm brings creates a health boundary or framework for our lives. Some of us need this more than others, but most all of us have some regular pattern of doing things that brings shape to our lives (showering, shaving, brushing teeth, etc). I have found that my life lose focus where I am unintentional around the rituals that enrich my spiritual and family life. There are three days left to catch up on the advent calendar and the Jesse tree–they can help me reframe the remaining time until Christmas. Not only this, I want to embrace the other rituals of Christmas that bring me joy–making the family Yule Log, for instance.
- Look ahead. Advent is the first season of the Christian year, so there’s a whole yearlong cycle of feasting and fasting ahead of us. I’m going to take the time to look ahead and identify some practices that will enrich me during each of the seasons of the Church year.
How has your Advent been? How have you marked time and anticipated the coming of the Christ child?