I have always loved Christmas and Christmas music, and once I became an adult, it became my habit to start listening to Christmas music and to otherwise start enjoying the Christmas season in November.
I come from a non-liturgical background so when I first started attending an Anglican church, the season of Advent came like a bucket of cold water. I still remember my first Advent carol service – they didn’t sing anything I knew! My early experience of Advent was of something that was designed to frustrate my enjoyment of Christmas. Fortunately my understanding of Advent has undergone a change in the intervening years.
We have just begun the liturgical season of Advent. This is the season of the church year when we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Christ child and also prepare for the eventual return of the Christ. We stand and look back. We stand and look forward. We exist in this specific time and space. Somehow we hold all three realities at once. We remember Jesus coming. We look ahead to Jesus coming again at the end of time but - we live now.
Christine Valters Paintner, in
Desert Fathers and Mothers writes, "
three is a number that helps us break through dualities. We tend to view life in either/or, us/them, or black/white dichotomies. When a third possibility enters, we are invited to hold the complexity and mystery of life and realize that it is so much vaster than any dichotomous situation.”
We don’t live in either the past or the future but both live in us. It’s easy to be focused on the past or the future, usually by worrying about them both. What did I say that for? What am I going to do? One way to escape the grip of both past and future is to be mindful of the present moment.
One truth I’ve been realizing lately is that God is always coming to us, always here, always present, always with us. God comes, and at the same time is always present, in the midst of all the joy, the sorrow, the mess and chaos of life.
In Mary Oliver’s poem,
Making the House Ready for the Lord she talks about how, despite her best efforts “
nothing is as shining as it should be for you.” She itemizes all of the ways in which, and reasons why, she has failed to be ready.
The poem ends with her realizing that, in living her daily life, she has already welcomed the Lord, “
And still I believe you will come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox, the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know that really I am speaking to you whenever I say, as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.”
This Advent season, in the familiar words of a much loved blessing, I wish for you three things - “
to be steadfast in faith, joyful in hope and untiring all the days of your life”.
~~ Sister Wendy Grace Greyling, Guest House Team