Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent. I grew up Catholic and heard about Advent in church on Sundays but I never really understood it, until I became Episcopalian. I gained a better understanding of the liturgical calendar and now understand that Advent is the beginning of the church year. It is also a time, when we as Christians, experience a period of waiting. Waiting for the Christ child to be born. Yesterday’s sermon distinguished the waiting in Advent as waiting in expectancy,waiting for something good to happen, rather than waiting with anxiety. Perhaps like a child waits for Christmas morning, rather than as a traveler anxiously waits for a plane’s departure. It seems like the waiting I do is usually waiting in anxiety…waiting for the kids to hurry up and eat breakfast, get dressed so I can get them to school, waiting in traffic so I can get to the office, waiting for the elevator so I can make it to a meeting on time. Waiting in Advent–waiting with expectancy–is a lot more appealing, however shifting gears for this type of waiting is a challenge for me.
This season I will try to celebrate Advent and its “waiting” by practicing “stillness.” Right. “Stillness” at any point in my working-mother-of-four-kids-in- a-blended-family-life is nearly impossible at any time of year. But in this season of gift buying, party planning, and hall decking, stillness takes a Christmas miracle. Nevertheless, every year I try to practice Advent stillness with our own family ritual of candle lighting and a family meal. Each Advent I make a wreath from fresh greens. Around the wreath I place three purple candles, representing hope, peace and love. The third candle is pink, and represents joy. In the center of the wreath is a white candle, the Christ candle. On Sunday evenings we light the weekly candle and have dinner as a family. Celebrating Advent and practicing stillness in our busy household has become more difficult as the kids have gotten older, their schedules more demanding, and our custody arrangements more complicated. Last night was epic Advent fail. Erica was not home. Diego had to be at church to sing for the Advent service. No family meal. The greens for my wreath were still in the bag. I became anxious trying to become “still” for Advent.
As I thought about what went wrong I realized that while I was practicing Advent, I was practicing it with anxiety. I realize I can still do the “business” of Advent. I can make my wreath, light my candles, and prepare the family meal, but rather than doing those tasks with the anxiousness of getting it done, I can do it with the stillness in my heart, taking in the moment, with the expectancy that something good will come of it.