[MaineStewards] When Mallory was very small, I decided that our family would live into the season of Advent. I would make it part of her early spiritual formation that, for us, Christmas would be the start of the season, not the end of it.
Like many new moms with great ideas, I went a little overboard.
For the four long weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I drove around town with a clear, small voice in the back seat announcing, “Those people aren’t waiting nicely.” every time we passed a house with a gorgeous tree in the front window.
With less than a week to go, my husband couldn’t take it anymore. Our tree was going up, with or without the kid’s permission. After a bit of shuttle diplomacy, I persuaded her that Sunday afternoon of “Advent 4” was OK with God. We had waited nicely.
The next year I was wiser. Instead of “the time of waiting,” we celebrated Advent as “the time of preparing, a season of anticipation.”
Not only was this more practical, it was probably better theology. When I think of Advent as the time of preparing, I feel freer. I feel more open to the journey from the longing of Israel to singing with Mary as our spirits rejoice in God our Savior. Instead of bottling it all up until Christmas Eve, I let it unfold as the time draws nigh.
This year, I find Advent a bit more challenging as I struggle to reconcile the world around me and the world within me:
How does light come into the darkness as my husband begins the transition back to work after a period of disability, moving from too sick to care to “what if they’ve learned to live without me…”?
How do I prepare a way in the wilderness when we’re about to be thrown off a fiscal cliff?
How does the desire of nations “bind in one the hearts of all mankind” when the news from Gaza and Israel, Syria, and Egypt doesn’t bode so well for our sad division to cease?[i]
These are not questions of “Should we spend less on Christmas this year, just in case?” Rather they are questions that can only find voice at where the inner life intersects with a world that needs me to walk with more faith than I have. They are questions that call me to stand at the crossroads of “be still” and “do something.”
As the First Sunday of Advent approaches, as I prepare to prepare, as it were, I find comfort in the Psalm appointed for this week:
Psalm 25: 1-9 Ad te, Domine, levavi
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; My God, I put my trust in you; let me not be humiliated, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
Let none who look to you be put to shame; let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.
Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long.
Remember, O Lord, your compassion and love, for they are from everlasting.
Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions; remember me according to your love and for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.
Gracious an upright is the Lord; therefore he teaches sinners in his way.
He guides the humble in doing right and teaches his way to the lowly.
All the paths of the Lord are love and faithfulness to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.
What lovely hope and promise… The true promise of Advent…
Emmanuel will come; God’s people will rejoice; everything will be OK.
[i] The Hymnal 1982
— Lisa Meeder Turnbull, a member of the Congregational Consultants Network and former missioner for stewardship in the Diocese of Maine.