Thanksgiving night, I sat at my desk, trying to keep the cat from tipping over my glass of iced tea while waiting for the fresh apple pie to cool enough to eat. I had no leftovers, as I’d eaten Thanksgiving dinner with friends on Wednesday, due to work schedules. That dinner was magnificent. I have never seen a turkey more golden brown. The vegetables were wonderful, and the company was the best a person could have. My friend promised to deliver leftovers in a day or so. (The prospect of turkey sandwiches and pumpkin cheesecake makes my mouth water.)
I like Thanksgiving. I like fall. I love almost anything pumpkin and can’t wait to have real turkey, rather than the deli-sliced kind. I love the cooler temperatures this time of year, and as I lay in bed, a breeze came up that set my tube wind chimes ringing. The chimes reminded me to be thankful for family, friends, my cats, the roof over my head, food in the fridge and favorite dishes to come, and really, all the blessings of life. I try to do that every day, but somehow it is much more important to be thankful for specificities of life, not just ‘Thanks for everything, God.”
One thing I always feel grateful for on Thanksgiving is that Advent is close at hand. Advent is my favorite church season. Oh, I love the exuberance of Christmas, the searching of Epiphany, the penitence of Lent, the joy of Easter, and, although not nearly as much, the length of Pentecost season. Still, it is Advent that I love the most.
Advent is a time for reflection, meditation, and expectation. It is a time that when I hear of Mary’s pregnancy, reminding me of my own, both of us anticipating our births. My “baby” is grown now, but I have pictures of his blond curls, bright blue eyes, and chubby cheeks when he was a baby and toddler. Advent reminds me of these things more poignantly than any other time of year.
Advent is a quiet time, though people seem busy, buying gifts, decorating, baking cakes, cookies, and pies for gifts and entertaining, attending the kids’ concerts and sports events, and extra meetings and rehearsals. Sometimes it feels hard to catch one’s breath with all the busy-ness around. And yet, Advent begs us to take time to sit and simply be – something we don’t do very often, much to the potential detriment of our spiritual lives.
Advent focuses on the coming of Messiah. It is a history lesson of the teachings of prophets and wise people who weren’t necessarily speaking of Jesus. Christians have been taught these prophecies were fulfilled in Bethlehem and the manger. Still, the stories in Matthew and Luke are the ones we have been taught since childhood, perhaps not factually accurate, we look forward to hearing them again through Advent and into Christmas.
The word “Advent” means “Coming,” as in the first or second coming of Christ. It indicates a forthcoming event or celebration. Purple was once the color for Advent, treated as a shorter penitential season, like Lent. Now a medium (serum) blue is often used, the Virgin Mary’s cloak. Blue represents purity, the sky, and the cloak of an Empress in the Byzantine tradition.
The Advent wreath seen in homes and churches during the season, with three blue or purple candles lit week by week, and a fourth candle being, for “Gaudette Sunday.” On Gaudette Sunday, one takes a breath to lighten before the big push towards Christmas Even and the Christmas season. The larger white candle in the center of the wreath is lit on Christmas Eve, the “Christ candle,” for the arrival of the Christ child.
What might it take to spend a few minutes every day to meditate on the coming of Christ and what his coming might means to us as Christians in a secular world? What might we give up doing to make time for that meditation or reflection? What might we gain by it? What might we lose by ignoring it?
I’m happy Advent begins tomorrow. I may put my tree up early instead of waiting for a time closer to Christmas, but our family tradition means something to me. I will contemplate traditions and what they mean and quietly try to sit so God has time to get a word in edgewise. I invite you to do the same.
Happy Advent. Celebrate well! And Happy New Year to the church whose liturgical year begins the same day.
Linda Ryan is a co-mentor for an Education for Ministry (EfM) group, an avid reader, lover of Baroque and Renaissance music, and retired. She keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter. She lives with her three cats near Phoenix, Arizona.