There is perhaps no busier time of year than the 30ish days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Stores become busier and lines become longer. Traffic picks up. Parties and celebrations become scheduled throughout the week and weekend. End of year reports are due. Finals are rapidly approaching as fall semesters come to an end. Our church calendar becomes filled with an array of activities and meetings and events. It is so easy to become swept away in the hustle and bustle around us, and it is when the “busyness” culture is at its highest. You know busyness culture—it’s when someone asks, “How are you doing?” and the typical response is, “Good. Busy, but good,” or “I’m fine. Life is busy per usual as you know.
Our need to be busy and always respond with our ongoing list of events and activities going on have made this into a cultural phenomenon, which means that finding time and energy to slow down is not only becoming harder but pushing against the busyness-norm that has come to be many of our realities.
The word “advent” comes from the Latin word “adventus” which means “coming” or “arrival.” In fact, it is the beginning of the church liturgical calendar and so, in a sense, it is our “new year.”
So, what is the first thing we do in our new church liturgical year?
No trying new weight loss programs or make new gym memberships.
No space or room within a week to a month to break those resolutions and fall back into old habits that really aren’t that bad anyways.
Nope, all that Advent asks of us is to wait. And in this waiting, we are given the room to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ by marking time with the lighting of the Advent candles of hope, peace, joy, and love. As we mark time, we also reflect on what these words mean, and how they play a role in preparing us for the coming of Christ and the inbreaking of God’s love in the world.
It seems like such a stark contrast, that both the busiest time of year is also the time of year in which we are being called to slow down, prepare ourselves, and wait. Making this mental shift is difficult, if not impossible most of the time. We slow ourselves down for worship, but then as soon as we walk out, it’s back to the to-do list for the day.
So what would it look like, beloved, to be fully immersed in the emotions and experience of Advent, rather than just moving through the motions of the season? What would it look like to intentionally pause, to wait in anticipation with hope, peace, joy, and love by your side preparing you?
This Friday, Williamsburg Presbyterian Church along with other community members of Williamsburg will be hosting our Service of Lessons and Carols. I’ve spoken of this service throughout these blog posts because, ultimately, it has become my ability to carry on my gratitude from Thanksgiving into Christmastide. Lessons & Carols provide this sacred space where there are no expectations of my time or energy, where all I do is soak in the words of scripture and song, reflecting on the heritage that has been gifted to us in this majestic and holy narrative, and the invitation that God has extended to the world to be part of the story. Lessons & Carols invites you to reflect and see how this story is so much larger than you or me, but is the enveloping of community, and witnessing how the light of Christ has spread forth to the world. There are 9 Lessons read by community members from children to adults, and our Carols will be sung through hymns by everyone gathered together, as well as beauty of the William and Mary Women’s Chorus, the purity of William and Mary’s Common Ground all-women’s acapella group, and the joy of the Westminster Ringer handbell choir of William & Mary students.
I hope that you will join us, that you will come for a moment to pause, to prepare, to reflect, to be reminded of the astounding heritage that has been gifted to us and that we are called to participate in and move forward in as a community of love and light.