This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent.
Isn’t it strange that every year we take the beautiful story that many of us have been told all our lives and that we consider very familiar and try to make it strange and new? I can’t be the only person who thinks this is weird.
Don’t get me wrong, I love Advent. I love that we begin our liturgical year with four+ weeks where we prepare for the birth of the Christ child. Some churches use Advent as a time to lament and repent as well. The idea of preparation changes depending on context.
The most strange thing to me is all the noise that goes along with Advent and the Christmas season. The Grinch laments all the noise, noise, noise, NOISE of the population of Whoville. It’s not just our malls that are noisy. Our churches are noisy.
Preparation is often active. We practice the special Christmas cantata that will be performed on Christmas Eve for months ahead of time. We practice the children’s pageant. We add elements to our worship services like lighting the Advent wreaths. We bake special cookies. All of these are good things. (Mom, please send me Christmas cookies during finals week.)
And preparation can be quiet. I don’t think quietness means inaction, but it does mean standing still physically or emotionally or mentally. Focusing on one thing at a time. Refusing to buy into the extravagant money-spending practices the advertisers promoting. Taking the time to sit down with someone who feels especially lonely during this time of the year.
I don’t have anything special to add to the conversations many are having where some are entrenched pro-Advent and some anti-Advent. I personally want to focus on the story. I think storytelling is powerful and transformative. I think our stories are entwined with the larger story of Advent and Christmas. I’d like to hear more of others’ stories during this time of year. It’s why I listen to the Christmas pop music and watch Christmas specials. The stories told within those mediums help awaken me to the larger story and help train me to listen to others more carefully, more intentionally.
Sometimes there are patterns in the noise of chaos, and sometimes we need to cut through the chaos to hear what’s underneath. Advent/Christmas time seems like a good time to practice.