Whose day is near.
Wait for the Lord,
keep watch, take heart.
During Advent, the above chant becomes one of the "ever-present" tunes in my brain. The music is hauntingly beautiful...but, as with many songs, what pulls me in deeper are the lyrics (I'm a writer and lyricist...so, yes, words do matter to me). And I think these lyrics are the perfect reflection for Advent...a season of taking time to slow down, observe what is coming...like watching the gathering clouds of a rainstorm moving over the plains....
"Do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance."--2 Peter 3: 8-9
Often times during this month of December, the urge, both internally with our own pressures and externally with incessant commercials, is to rush around trying to get all the shopping done, gifts wrapped, get to every holiday party invitation, and put the Christmas cards in the mail. Most Decembers, I feel as though I'm on speed or some other kind of hyperactive upper drug, and it's rush, rush, rush to accomplish everything before 6pm December 24th! And, just as if I were speeding, I crash...sometimes landing in a depression that I can't explain because somehow I feel weirdly unfulfilled by the whole holiday experience. So, this time around, I am doing something "hippie-like": I'm going back to my roots, to the simple idea of what these weeks before Christmas (y'know...Advent!) are supposed to be about...
"A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken."--Isaiah 40: 3-5
For me, the preparation isn't about the excessive spending, and shouldn't be about running myself ragged. It should be the opposite: the preparation should be about slowing down and becoming more mindful of what sometimes feels like "The Season of God" stretching from The First Sunday of Advent right through Pentecost. "Advent" is the beginning of what can be a remarkable learning and growing in relationship with God....if we just slow down and allow for God to level our mountains...and smooth out our rough places. As part of my faith journey, I have discovered that if I don't turn away, but instead allow God into my life, into my heart, I am changed. I am not as anxious about unknown "things" and I am discovering more and more how to balance a healthy amount of anxiety vs. outright fear. And I am continually changing as I slow down, pay attention to the Liturgy of the Word and prayers in the prayer book, and stick with this bizarre trip that I find myself on.
"Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings, lift it up, do not fear; say to the cities of Judah, "Here is your God!" "--Isaiah 40:9
There is joy, and anticipation, in the approaching holiday...and the preparations for such can also be as joyous. I think this time is meant to be enjoyed in each day, in each candle that gets lit as we Christians prepare for God's presence in our lives, and reflect upon the story of God's love for us that comes into the world through his incarnation as Jesus. As John the Baptist notes in the Gospel of Mark, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Advent to Christmas to Lent to Easter to Pentecost. What a great opportunity to get to know God in a personal way! Savor the moments.