It is coming. It is that time of year in the church when all the different groups in the church have a Christmas party. Each group sets a date and time, and then looks forward to it. As a pastor, I’m expected to come to all of them, and bring my husband along as well.
Before I go any further: I enjoy spending time with my congregation. I like celebrations and I love the Christmas season. But it seems that the month of December can be spent in Full On Christmas celebration, and miss my favorite part: Advent.
I’m ready for next year, when Thanksgiving won’t be so darn late, so that there will be more than two days between Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. I want that space, not so that I have more time to go shopping, but so that I have time to spend in anticipation of the season of preparation before entering the hectic party season.
I wonder if churches would think about spreading their parties out over the year. But really, I’m nearly the only one affected by it, there might be a few who have a couple parties to go to, but I have four or five.
Here’s something odd. My first year at Duke I ended up going to a party every night of the week at the end of term. And that didn’t feel like anything extra at all. Granted, I mostly had studying done, and I was only working part time.
Ah. That’s it. The parties are part of my job. A good, joyful, celebratory part of my job, but job nonetheless. And in the Advent and Christmas season, it’s not as if my load gets any lighter, rather, there is more to plan, and the past two years, there have been more papers to write. It seems that everything in my vocation is stepped up, in a higher gear, and filled with more tasks and requirements.
And in the past, it was the opposite. When I was a student, there was the huge tail of the semester with final exams, then a deep breath of space where I could celebrate and enjoy the last week or so of Advent before Christmas.
This year, I want to celebrate Advent. It is one of my favorite seasons. Advent means coming, and it is when we prepare for the coming of the Christ child. Some of my favorite hymns are Advent hymns, and yet most folks want to sing the Christmas Carols right out of the gate.
As a culture, we like our instant gratification, but Advent allows us to spend time in waiting. I like the practice and discipline of waiting expectantly. I like the time when we sing Come Thou Long-Expected Jesus, sometimes even more than Joy to the World. This year, I will work on waiting, even in the midst of the parties, and sit in anticipation of the love that came down to live among us.
Happy Almost Advent Y’all!