“A voice cries out: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…” (Isaiah 40:3)
In a normal year, our family’s preparation for Christmas involves several elements:
- Retrieving Christmas decorations from the attic Thanksgiving weekend and adorning every room in our house with Kim’s magic decorating touch.
- Sharing gift lists with extended family members and making numerous shopping trips.
- Baking several holiday favorites for sharing with others.
- Christmas parties at work, church and friend groups (our first year in Greenville we had 16 parties – our record!).
- Trips to visit family in Charlotte, Raleigh, and Washington, DC.
- Worship in our church and other churches in our CBFNC family.
- Welcoming our daughter, Lauren, home for a visit.
But this is not a normal year.
We are still debating the house decorating strategy and may scale back this year. Baking will be minimal. We don’t need the calories and sharing options are limited. Parties? What parties? Family gatherings are not taking place. Worship is mostly online. Lauren is in Mongolia, about as far from our home as you can get.
Advent is known as a time to prepare for the coming of the Lord, his first coming in Bethlehem two millennia ago and his second coming at the consummation of history.
If I’m honest, most of the “normal” Advent practices I described above have little to do with the coming of the Lord. Maybe the inability to do those things, while depressing and discouraging on one level, is actually a blessing in disguise.
What might it look like this year to take a more spiritual approach to the preparation of Advent? If physical practices are limited, what are the spiritual practices that are still available to us?
I’m still pondering the possibilities, but I think they might include things like…
- embracing the relative solitude forced by the pandemic rather than resisting it;
- spending more time in silence rather than always switching on and turning up the volume on my many devices;
- Examining my own conscience rather than finding fault with those who don’t share my theological and political perspectives;
- Giving time, attention, even money to causes that reflect my growing convictions on important issues.
The list is longer but the space is short, so I’ll conclude with this question: “In this year that is anything but normal, what might a more faithful approach to Advent preparation look like for you?”
– O God for whom nothing is unexpected, show us how we can make the most of the unexpected circumstances we find ourselves in this Advent.