Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Deep Waiting of Advent

"By celebrating through the structure of the Church we actually are given the forms we need to become whole and we are given the formulas to make whole every human experience…Advent begins the Church year. And the first mystery we are asked to engage in is waiting. The Church cycle flows into the natural rhythm of the season and we enter the dormant, waiting time of winter. Nature seems asleep. The season is dark, and all that is becoming is hidden from our sight. The ancient combination of natural phenomenon with religious symbolism is still operational in our feast of Christmas. Nature and mystery join and invite us to recognize our hopeful longing for the return of the sun and the birth of the word made flesh."

Gerturd Mueller Nelson from To Dance With God

Advent is about a deep waiting on the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

When I was little my grandmother, "Honey," told me stories about growing up. Today I tell those stories to my children. One of the stories she told me was about how her parents made her wait for Christmas. Her family's tradition was to go to services on Christmas eve, then get her to sleep, decorate, so that she awoke on Christmas day to a transformed home. As a little boy I could not imagine the excruciating pain of waiting for Christmas. My parents did not put up the tree until after the last Sunday in Advent. And I remember the long wait to see the greening of the church. We lit Advent candles in my home and we said special advent prayers together at dinner.

There are many pressures on us that cause us to secularize our lives. Empty nesters no longer have children of fight over blowing out the candles and soon the advent season is missed all together. Widows and widowers in patterns of regularity feel awkward about saying prayers or lighting an advent wreath alone. Schedules for families with children in sports and activities, complicated by homework, and subtly worn away by the fact that Christmas decorations were up before Halloween mix together to create a sense that we must hurry to Christmas, no stopping or waiting allowed. To be sure the world naturally pulls at us, and pulls us away from traditions.

Yet how much comfort might a quiet house discover in the warmth of candles lit between two people? What light and joy can be brought to prayers offered before a meal alone, with the opportunity to discover in the quiet waiting that God is present? If after school busy-ness gave way to a meal with children taking turn reading and praying and lighting candles, what better way to center a family who is seeking centering in God?

I encourage you to join me and my family this Advent in a holy and deep waiting. Let us each night do what Episcopalians and Anglicans all over the world are doing, waiting, pondering, wondering. Gather with family, with friends, alone, or with strangers in ways that offer the discovery and embrace of our Lord's mysterious birth.

For it is in our waiting, together, that we discover that Jesus is born for us. It is also in the waiting that we discover we are born for one another and as a gift for one another.

Some resources:

Read Advent Story: Laura Jean Hopes For Christmas here:


Lists of everything Advent:


Advent wreath making



Advent Calendar making




Online Advent Blogs - Promising





Advent Books

Advent And Christmas Wisdom From Henri J.m. Nouwen: Daily Scripture And Prayers Together With Nouwen's Own Words (Paperback)

Watch For The Light: Readings For Advent And Christmas (Paperback)

Advent Podcasts


No comments:


  • "Christianity is not a theory or speculation, but a life; not a philosophy of life, but a life and a living process." Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • "Most people are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer." Oliver Wendell Holmes
  • "Perfection, in a Christian sense, means becoming mature enough to give ourselves to others." Kathleen Norris
  • "Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can." John Wesley
  • "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." G. K. Chesterton
  • "One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans." C. S. Lewis
  • "When we say, 'I love Jesus, but I hate the Church,' we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the church seldom asks us for forgiveness." Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey
  • "Christians are hard to tolerate; I don't know how Jesus does it." Bono
  • "It's too easy to get caught in our little church subcultures, and the result is that the only younger people we might know are Christians who are already inside the church." Dan Kimball