Lent is the time you give something up, or take on a spiritual discipline, as a way of recognizing the penitential season of waiting before Easter. I really don’t understand why we don’t have the same tradition in Advent. Advent is also a penitential season of waiting. It is not a time to celebrate the joy of Christmas; it is the time to walk reverently and with hope, following the star toward the promise of a birth.
This Advent I am leading a group at my field education parish for those folks who have a difficult time during Advent and Christmas. Last year I attended a “Blue Christmas” service at St. Philip’s in Laurel, MD — it was a lovely service that met me where I was and helped me to see a new possibility for Advent. As someone who has experienced a great loss during the Christmas season, Advent and Christmas have been extremely emotionally taxing for the last several years. I decided to take the idea of “Blue Christmas” and extend it further. The group I am leading invites people from various backgrounds to come together and wait together, feeling the feelings we have rather than the feelings we are told we should have. We will share in our grief and our hope as we walk slowly through a world that is running. The group will culminate with a Blue Advent healing Eucharist with a liturgy that I am writing.
So this Advent I have decided to treat the season a little like Lent. I am removing distractions from my life and replacing them with gentleness and mercy for my soul. I am reading prayers by Desmond Tutu, Dietrich Bonheoffer, and Henri Nouwen. I am waiting for the miracle that is coming. The thing about waiting is that waiting in the bible is always an active thing. It isn’t like missing the bus and then needing to just sit on the bench waiting for the next one to come by: waiting for Christ requires preparation of our hearts and our lives so that there will be room for the Joy that is on the horizon.
I write this as I prepare my heart this week for the coming of Advent. We have the luxury of knowing that a season of waiting is drawing close, and that foreknowledge is a gift that we are given. What we do with the gift is up to us. So yes, I am writing about Advent waiting before Advent even begins. It is my hope that I may use this week to prepare my heart to wait patiently and counter-culturally. Advent Conspiracy is one resource if you are considering how you would like to reclaim the season of Advent in your life. There are many others out there. I encourage you to spend this week deciding: What do you intend to do with your time of waiting?