The advent of Advent
I am writing this posting from the guest room of a monastery, where I am taking a day to breathe deeply before plunging into the "holiday season." I am on retreat not just from my own busy schedule and pastoral overload, not only on retreat from banners announcing that McDonalds will be open on Thanksgiving and Black Friday discounts will start at midnight at Best Buy, not only on retreat from Facebook and gmail and texts with emoticons.
I am also on retreat from "the advent of Advent."
The advent of Advent is all the chatter and debate and pre-marketing of the holy season of Advent. The advent of Advent is all the blog postings arguing for blue or purple as the better color choice for the season. It is the over-promotion of the Advent Conspiracy and the blog retorts that [AC] is neither a conspiracy nor a proper keeping of Advent. The advent of Advent is the marketing of online advent calendars, even by wonderful churches and churchy institutions, in order to promote their product (even if it's really good sermons). The advent of Advent prevents us from crossing the sanctuary threshold on the morning of December 1st quietly, listening for God in worship, and convinces us that we need to make Advent happen for people, and it better be "memorable" and "transformative."
J. Barrie Shepherd names this poetically in Kaleidoscoping Christmas:
...It all seems to boil down
to the fitting of things in,
the insertion into almost non-
existent spaces in the daily round
of moments of potential magic…..
If you are reading this, you're probably someone who really cares about Advent. I do, too. But my invitation to you (and myself!) today is to loosen our vice grip on the season ahead; to make room for silence; to not have a cow if we don't get to sing our favorite Advent hymn or if the guest preacher shows up in a purple stole that clashes with our blue hangings.
The people we accompany in our parishes and chaplaincies desperately need to see us "keep the main thing the main thing," because it's really hard for them to do that, too. So tell them something about the meaning of the season, but not everything. Maybe say one thing well, rather than everything at great length. Breathe. Breathe again. Be quiet. Be quieter.
Amy McCreath is a presbyter serving with the Church of the Good Shepherd, Watertown, MA, and a Council Member of APLM. Amy blogs at http://www.livingwatertown.wordpress.com