Yes, I admit it! I could give this post a million different titles, and I choose this one. I’m hoping somebody somewhere wants to read the next line:
Unless it does.
Truly Advent doesn’t matter. And truly it does. It depends.
It’s the circumstances and the details of our lives that decide it. I’ve written about Advent in the past, as have countless others over the centuries, because it’s such a valuable practice. It has a great capacity to hold us, nurture us, remind us, and strengthen us. It gives us guidance and rhythms just like Lent, and my personal favorite, Ordinary Time.
I’m admitting another thing now – I’ve been wanting to write and post for the last five months, and I didn’t . I felt like I couldn’t. I even had ideas and inspiration, notes, and time! And still, nothing. I wanted to write abut my favorite liturgical season and how it wasn’t in any way – by any stretch of the imagination – ordinary. Indeed, it had become extraordinary. And I was keenly aware of this, checking in with the calendar, marking the days – how many do I have left before Advent? How many days…??? And then it was Thanksgiving and I knew my time was up. The kids wanted “the tree!” and “the lights!” And I…I just wanted a little… more… “ordinary time…”. Ya know?
But, since I had discovered the advent wreath and acquired the appropriately colored candles, squished them into the holders with tin foil and found a church sanctioned guide, I stepped into Advent anyway, begrudgingly, unwillingly, miffed that I hadn’t the energy to put as much thought and visual aides into it for the kids as I had in past years. How will they practice if I don’t have a practice-thing set up for them?? I worried. You know, a practice-thing, like something tangible, something they can put their hands on, move around, something that is a touchable representation of how they are readying their hearts for the Christ child. (If you’re a teacher, you’re thinking, or shouting out, “Manipulative! You mean, manipulative!“)
Yes, a manipulative. But I went with memories instead. It’s all I had. So I sat at the table and lit the first candle, forgot to open that church sanctioned book and asked the kids, “Remember when we used to put the stars on the heart? At the old house?”
“Do you mean the ornaments on the tree?” the little one suggested.
“Oh, we’ve done that, too, here at this house, with a poster on our wall under the crucifix. But I was thinking about how we decorated our hearts for Jesus. Every time we did something kind we glued a gold star on the big heart by the kitchen. Remember?” (For your visualization, these are all cut out of 20-year-old-faded construction paper.)
I patted myself on the back at this point for not dropping into despair about how all my efforts were for not. I comforted myself with the knowledge that seeds had been planted, and started talking with them about love, faith, peace, joy, and how lots of people think of the candles and the weeks of Advent in a variety of ways.
Amid answering questions like “Why purple? Why’s only one pink? What’s Gaudete?” I asked them, “What would you like the theme of this week, the first week, to be?”
In the gap, my husband called out, “Hope. Hope.”
And so it was. We talked about ways we can be hopeful, which is hard, and we came around to creating a bit of positivity. We’re in the house together a lot now and sometimes things get pretty grim, so practicing a positive attitude seemed hopeful.
No need to wonder how it went because I can’t even remember last week. However, this week is Peace and it occurred to me to send two of my bickering children to “The Peace Stairs” and find peacefulness together. (This is one of the many gems I received from our short years in Montessori school.) It was successful.
Personally, I struggled with some pretty difficult emotions the last three days and instead of fighting them, ignoring them, or diving into them, I chose to let them be. Yeah, I gave those emotions some peace from my judgment and shame. I allowed them to be there, and I stopped telling myself I shouldn’t have them. Instead, I acknowledged that these challenging emotions were present, and I spoke these observations out loud to three other people, my husband and two oldest children, who noted that some days feel heavy and some light. There was a great peacefulness in this experience of being seen and seeing others. So, some more success.
I’m not sure, of course, how the rest of the week will play out, or the following weeks either. But it doesn’t matter. The whole aim of liturgical seasons like Lent and Advent is to develop positive habits that continue after the season has ended. There can be a lot of pressure wrapped up in figuring out what one is going to do or not do for times like these, but I’ve thankfully worked in room for transition time and ease and not really caring about what day we start on and when (or if!) we finish. We just keep trying, keeping pressing on, keep practicing. These positive habits are a Life Thing, not an Advent thing.
And beyond all of this, both can be true at the same time – Advent does, and does not matter, which is why I love Ordinary Time so much. We practice these things in ordinary time, too: Hope on Tuesday? Yep! Peace on Thursday night? You know it. Faith, Love, Patience? Wednesday at 4:16pm. Sometimes we succeed, and sometimes we fail, and the failures are successes when we look at then in the right light. So turn on the light!
- Contemplate what you enjoy or appreciate about Advent, and also what you don’t.
- Create your own Advent practices that resonate with your truest self or express your inner light – something that you want to stay with you throughout the year.
- Drop the stuff that creates negative energy, which might be a particular perspective, not necessarily a tangible thing.
- Remember that Advent is here to serve you. You are not here to serve Advent.
(Or A Little!)
The Universal Yogi