"Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.These are words from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, as collected in God is in the Manger: Advent and Christmas Reflections. I got the audiobook as the free download of the month from christianaudio, which is pretty cool sometimes. I'm not a huge fan of audiobooks in general, but these snippets you just listen to for like 3-4 minutes each day, and I can definitely make space for that.
Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting, that is, of hopefully doing without, will never experience the blessing of fulfillment. Those who do not know how it feels to struggle anxiously with the deepest questions of life and to patiently look forward with anticipation until the truth is revealed, cannot even dream of the splendor of the moment in which clarity is illuminated for them.
For the greatest, most profound, tenderest things in the world, we must wait. It happens not here in a storm, but according to the divine laws of sprouting, growing, and becoming."
What's awesome about today's little blurb is that Bonhoeffer, writing in the 1940s, thought that he lived in an impatient age. Can you imagine what he'd have to say about our instant lifestyle these days? If he felt that people struggled in that time to set aside reflective moments in Advent, how much more critical is it that we set aside that time in our even busier lives? [And don't you just love that last little nod to process? Boom.]
This Advent, as church is my life and livelihood, I've decided to get intentional about it.
Our church put together a World Hunger Advent calendar -- each day, you put coins in a jar based on its prompts: boxes of cereal in your cupboard, pets you have, sporting events you attended this year, faucets in your home, etc. After Christmas, we all bring in our jars/piggy banks/coffee cans (mine) and send the cash off to ELCA World Hunger. It's an interesting way to check your abundance and give to a very worthy cause. So far, there are 50 cents in my jar. (But one of the prompts is 25 cents per trip to Disneyland, which might just break the bank for me...)
We're also encouraging people to participate in the Advent Conspiracy, which calls us to reflect on the ludicrous amount of spending our nation does each Christmas season. (Spoiler Alert: It's 450 BILLION dollars.) Their slogan is Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, Love All. That should probably be my new life motto. The totally rad thing that Advent Conspiracy inspired me to do this year is, rather than spend a lot of money to send mailably-small, probably dumb things all around the nation to the people I love [as I have been known to do in the past], to put the dollars I would have spent into giving ELCA Good Gifts to some kiddos in need in the developing world. I went with chicks (cute, helpful, plentiful) and textbooks. I think that showing love through reading and education as a whole is the greatest gift I can ever give anyone. Check out the website and see if there's anything that strikes your fancy. Ducks, cows, blankets, vaccinations, water jugs, goats -- you name it, the ELCA will help you give it away.
In much sillier Advent news, I made a (neon, obvi) paper chain calendar, with the daily scripture readings on each link. Here it is, hanging from my staircase, because obviously that is where it belongs:
I made an at-home Advent "wreath" from a little Nativity shrine I have and some tea lights. I'm not normally a candle person (being allergic to artificial fragrances makes scented candles a no-go) but it was so nice to have that little light flickering. And I'm so excited to light the rest as the weeks go by! Here it is, lit up yesterday for the first Sunday in Advent:
On Saturday, our church is hosting an Advent Quiet Day, where the church is open for all sorts of quiet (not silent) activities. We'll have a labyrinth downstairs, yoga upstairs, process painting, the sanctuary open for praying, a room for reading/writing, knitting, crafting, etc. It will be so so awesome and I am super looking forward to it.
I'm also spending like 90% of my time listening to Sufjan Stevens' Christmas albums. They're just that good.
I'm preaching this week, so I'm all up in the Gospel of Luke, which is the Adventiest place to be. It's all John the Baptist all the time, which is cool, because he was a rad dude that I think I would have been friends with. Just kidding -- he lived in the wilderness and wore camel hair and ate locusts. No thanks, bro. I do think he was a rad dude, though. Speaking truth to power and whatnot. The original Advent Conspiracy, you might say.
The important thing about Advent, I think, it is to get counter-cultural. December is the busiest month in this country, by far, meanwhile the Gospel is telling us to slow down. If at all possible, take some time out of this frenetic cultural season to participate in the quiet anticipation of Advent. Yes, Godspell gets stuck in your head as "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord" loops through, but what we seem to always forget around here is that the preparation for the coming Christ child doesn't involve a whole lot of doing. It's mostly about waiting. It's only the first week of Advent. Wait. Sit. Wonder. Try not to jump ahead to week three and four juuuust yet. There will be plenty of time for week four in week four! Week one is an invitation to slooooooow doooooown. Consider it.