Advent. What is it anyway?
I never even heard of it until I stumbled into Metropolitan Community Church of Seattle in 1984 – we didn’t do Advent in the Christian Reformed Church I was born into and escaped from in my teens.
Over the years Advent has been many things for me.
In the past it was when I planned how to get through that year’s family Christmas gatherings, gatherings where I always felt uncomfortable and bored. Life would be at least a little easier if I liked football as much as I love opera.
In recent decades Advent has become a time of music and tradition. Some restful and inspiring – such as attending the O Antiphon service at St. Mark’s Cathedral. Some not so restful, but often even more inspiring – such as rehearsals and concerts singing with the Seattle Choral Company and our own Sanctuary Choir.
This year, perhaps more than ever, Advent is about something else for me. Advent is a journey, a journey into mystery.
As you may know, last spring I decided to write an Advent devotional based on life with my family. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and writing this little book was a way for me to process and honor life with my parents and siblings. And then I published the book, and realized that people would read it. More to the point, members of my family might read it! What was I thinking???
Well let’s fast forward to last week. Several members of my family have read the book, and we’ve all lived through it.
My oldest sister Marie, lives in Indiana, you know, Mike Pence’s home state. We don’t talk often, but she called me on Monday. I was dreading her call because I knew she had read my book and she and I have had some unpleasant exchanges over the years. I really didn’t want to know what she thought of my writing. But she did call, and I answered, and we had a pleasant conversation for 30 minutes. A little about the book – “I think I know you a little better now,” Mer said. But mostly about her granddaughter Nora and the family horses. Neither one of us brought up politics or religion. We laughed at lot, though.
Then on Tuesday I got a Facebook message from my niece Carol – she’s the niece I mention by name in Day 11 in the book. Today, Carol is a mother of two teenagers and she works for a Christian Reformed Church in Michigan. This fall I noticed on Facebook that she was organizing bus rides to a Franklin Graham rally.
Here is what Carol wrote:
“Your book arrived yesterday - I read the whole thing - parts of it twice before trying to sleep last night. Fantastic work! Your insight is remarkable - and so very helpful. I am currently re-evaluating a LOT of life - and your book was oh so timely and helpful.”
Carol went on to mention the story I tell in Day 11, the one where I express regret for telling her to “forget about that Calvinist claptrap.”
“I will write more later - but goodness, you must take our Aaron conversation off of your re-do list, immediately. My memory of that conversation is freedom and insight - nothing negative at all.”
So back to Advent.
What’s it all about anyway?
Well for me it continues to be a journey.
It’s a time of hope, but even more so a time of mystery.
What did I hope for, what did I expect from Advent this year?
I hoped that a few people at SFBC would read the book I wrote, and find something in it to lighten your heart. I hoped it would help me learn from and move beyond my childhood – you know, learn from my past without living in it. And honestly I hoped my family would just ignore the whole thing.
But so far this Advent is full of surprises for me. I’ve learned a lot more than I expected to, good things, positive things. In my opinion, that’s what good mysteries are like. May each of us be open to a little mystery as we travel through this season together. May we learn what we need to know to live today and every day to its full potential.