Sunday, December 18, 2005

advent reflections

i always hope that advent will be a quiet, contemplative time of anticipation and preparation -- preparation of a spiritual sort, not what seems like the endless madness of getting ready for christmas. we here at the wide tent keep christmas pretty simple -- our kids just get a couple of gifts from us, the family gets photos of the kids, grown-up friends get homemade beer and salsa. i guess it's all the nieces and nephews and other kids in my life that i get a little carried away with -- i like to make them something with a bit of a personal touch. often it's mass-produced tie-dyed t-shirts; this year i'm going a little crazy and making more personalized gifts. regardless, it never fails that by now, a week before christmas, i'm just feeling too busy, with too much to do, just a bundle of stress ... hardly wide-open and ready to receive the christ child. on top of that, the house is a mess, and i have no time for any of the quiet homemaking details that seem like they ought to be part of christianity's one big indoor, home-based festival.

it doesn't help that i never factor in the inevitability that a) we will all be sick in turn for much of advent and b) everybody and his sister will invite us to their holiday parties. which of course are lovely, full of good cheer and fellowship and yummy food, yadda yadda yadda. but what ever happened to celebrating christmas over christmas? you know, christmas has its own liturgical season -- that would be the couple of weeks after christmas. it's nice and short and defined, it ends with epiphany, and yet nobody really observes it, because we are all observing christmas when we're supposed to be observing advent. this year, we're really trying to observe advent as its own season of the liturgical year: our tree is not up, and we will not decorate it until a few days before christmas; we're not listening to christmas music yet; and we're saving all those sweet christmas treats until, well, christmas. we are lighting advent candles every night before dinner, and singing advent songs for our grace. it has been lovely, and has really added to our sense of anticipation -- i can't wait to listen to the messiah, for example, both the traditional choral version, as well as the hip-hop/rap/jazz "soulful celebration" that we love.

and well, maybe, even in the midst of the madness, this advent has been more of a time of contemplation and spiritual preparation than i give it credit for. maybe i've just got it all wrong in my expectations... maybe advent is supposed to be a busy, not a quiet time of contemplation -- certainly my best thinking often gets done in the midst of domestic chaos. and maybe the spiritual preparation of advent actually springs from the daily and domestic chores of preparing a home for a simple mid-winter festival of lights and hope. yes, i suppose it's true that much of my own spiritual formation has happened not in spite of, but because of the banal dailyness of life, of keeping a home and raising a family. again, the "quotidian mysteries" kathleen norris speaks of. i do know that i've been thinking a lot about making our lives more intentional -- more intentionally ethical, more intentionally simple, more intentionally joyful and aesthetically pleasing (more on that in another post). and this has definitely come in part out of our advent observance this year. hmmm....

still, i'll admit, i'd give just about anything right now for a clean house and two or three days with absolutely nothing to do!


At December 19, 2005 8:23 AM, Blogger sster said...

I am with you on the Christmas celebrations during a time designed for quiet reflection. The best advent season I had was when I lived alone far from anyone I knew. I set up a candle on a little table and sat in front of it every night, praying and sometimes singing a hymn. It was so peaceful gazing at that flame. I did a lot of healing at that time.

At December 20, 2005 6:54 PM, Anonymous mamacate said...

For somewhat different reasons, I'm right there with you. Not about advent and xmas, but my lame attempts to slow down the holiday insanity in the name of a little bit more mindfulness and space in life have been completely unsuccessful. I love the idea of hand-made gifts too, but it adds significantly to the insanity. And sometimes I think I lose track of the point.

Anyway, thanks for that thoughtful post. I love that you're blogging.


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