I tend to feel tension in Advent. I desire it to be a time of quiet, of listening, of waiting. I want to sit in the darkness with the single candle flame that expands to two, then three, then four, waiting for full radiance to come in Christ’s birth. Attending to the mysteries of the season has seemed to beckon me to dark, still, womb-like waiting.
Yet this longing for quiet anticipation plays out within my context, where December is always busy. I squeeze directees into the first three weeks of the month so I can take off time to be with family. I finish out year-end projects. I plan Christmas gifts for immediate and extended family members. I go to as many seasonal celebrations as I can. And inevitably I feel tired, overwhelmed, and pulled in too many directions.
Often this tension leaves me feeling frustrated, as though I am failing at Advent. I can’t figure out how to get space to “do it right,” and all I can do is write off this year and hope that the next year will be different.
The next year is never different.
This year, I’m hearing a different invitation. As I reflected on Mary’s pregnancy, the Holy Spirit nudged me to look more closely at how Mary spent her days. For possibly the first time, I really saw what those final weeks of her pregnancy were like for her: preparing for her journey, packing up anything she might need knowing her child might be born before she returned home, traveling the rough and dusty roads, moving as quickly as her swollen body would allow. It was not a time of stillness and retreat. It was a time of constant activity.
What might the season hold for me, if I enter it embracing the activity and the movement? What if, instead of resenting it and wishing it away, I saw it as part of preparing for Christ’s coming? Could I keep my internal gaze fixed on what is to come within the busyness, like Mary placing her hand on her belly as she traverses the distance between Galilee and Bethlehem?
I think this might be the difference between being grounded and being centered. I am not rooted down, resting in place. Instead I am holding a still center within the movement. Maybe this shift will let me release the resentment. Maybe I can let go of how I wish this time would be, and instead encounter the God of Things As They Are.
May you journey well this Advent. May this season of watching the glimmers of light grow to incandescence contain exactly what your soul most needs. Peace to you in the stillness. Peace to you in the busyness. Peace to you, right where you are.