I realize, as I come to this day which is the end of the Advent season, that I really haven’t pondered the nature of Advent as deeply as usual this year. I am still busy pondering the duality of my human condition. And that awareness of duality continues today as I celebrate both the secular holiday known as Christmas and as I prepare once again to mark the end of the spiritual season of Advent and the beginning of that great festival of Christmas.
Yes, I have spent today baking cookies, making dinner, and wrapping presents along with the rest of my fellow Americans and a goodly portion of my European brethren, and that is fine. But maybe for the first time, I worked really hard to understand that those activities, like the tree that stands in my living room and the presents under it, like the decorations on the mantlepiece and the greenery that I have stuck in every conceivable, workable location — these things and these activities are of the human world.
And now it is time to switch gears as I ready myself to worship tonight the original reason we as Christians pause on this day in the beginning of winter — the end of Advent, the time of waiting, and the beginning of that annual journey we make with the baby Jesus from birth to the Cross. If you have a minute, and you didn’t get a chance to hear it, you might click over and read Pastor Amy’s amazing talk from the last Sunday of Advent, When Miracles Fly Thick. Among other wonderful things, she talks about the importance of having and embracing our stories, both our personal stories and the stories of our faith.
In a few hours, I will be honored to participate in the remembrance of one of the greatest stories ever told, and while I’m worrying about getting the details of the service correct, worried about notes and rhythms and words, worried about singing from my spirit and not from the page, I’m going to try and remember Sr. Joan Chittister’s description of Advent: “….the season that teaches us to wait for what is beyond the obvious. It (Advent) trains us to see what is behind the apparent. Advent makes us look for God in all those places we have, until now, ignored.”
I know that, by the time we light the Christ candle tonight, I will be far from having learned the lessons that Advent begs me to consider. But maybe, just maybe, this year, I will do a better job of embracing and living the story that it offers to me and to all who will listen.