Advent: The Small and the Sacred

Friday, December 1, 2017

A distant light, muddled, blurred in motion...a soft haze of something joyful and celebratory, but not quite discernible, that will gradually become sharp and clear and wonderful and piercing. 

This coming Sunday is one I have long looked forward to...for the past month and a half now, I've caused Ryan to chuckle fondly by saying aloud every other week, while rocking back and forth on my feet, "It's almost Aaaaaadvent!"

He laughs because there is always a childlike wonder and joy in my eyes when I say it. All of us, I think, become children in December, halted in the wonder and sacredness of this season. It is a season of anticipation, one so dear to my heart that I spend all of October and November in a glorious state of anticipation for THE season of anticipation.

The season of Advent. Today we lay out wreathes and candles, purple and greenery are hung in churches because this is a new beginning. The end of Ordinary Time and the birth of a new liturgical year...Advent is the first of the two seasons of preparation in the liturgical year. Lent is the other...a penitential season of purple and somber fasting to prepare for Easter.

Lent is good in the way that most things in life are--it is hard and necessary in its request of sacrifice and silence, and that is precisely why we need it. Why it is good for us. We must go through the dryness and hardship to journey towards the triumph of Easter.

But I have always loved Advent in a different way from Lent. If Lent is a penitent waiting for the triumph and glory of Christ's resurrection, Advent is a quiet, hushed waiting beneath which pulses a steadily rising joy. We wait, tremulous and tender, on the edge of a holy anticipation.

There is something fresh and new and wondrous about Advent, like a deep inhale of cold, clear air on a dark starry night. Advent is the season of joyful waiting--waiting with hushed voices and bated breath for the birth of a new hope. For the promise made manifest in a Babe nestled within a wooden manger that something far greater is coming also in the form of wood. That a deed so wonderful and terrible will be worked that death will go backwards and the world itself will shake.

Advent is the promise in winter that spring will come--that soon, a Lion will shake His mane and an object wrought by man will become the means of his salvation.

It is the prelude, the rising note of joy to remind us that on the other side of the new year, a few short months away, lies a holy journey that ends in a dark, empty tomb, and the most glorious of all Light that bursts forth in the shadows never to be defeated.

And here we are, on the cusp of this joyous liturgical season. Every Advent, I feel my soul quicken and a longing to be still and hushed arises.

Last month, I decided I would write and publish an daily Advent devotional in time for December. I'd contemplated the idea last year and decided to make it a reality. I'd gotten quite far in the planning stage only to slowly realize how much I already had on my plate. November was slipping past me and I knew December would be full with work, wedding planning, and all the other things of life. I could either do it well and let everything else fall, or focus my attention on the things already tasked to me. If I truly wanted to carve out stillness and quiet my soul for this season, taking on something else (even if it was good), was not the way.

So with a silent sigh, I put that idea to the side and came up with a happy compromise: celebrating Advent in the small ways.

Even though December will be a flurry of a month in the rush before Christmas, I've planned ahead. This year, I'm challenging myself to find the small moments of each day. Because I believe there's a sacredness in the small and simple and mundane.

So I've made a list of 24 small things. Physical actions to do each day of Advent to celebrate both the small and the sacred. As this is not just a somber season, but also a joyful one, there are some Christmas activities sprinkled in. While my own list in in written in pen and paper in a small black-bound journal, I thought I'd put together a nicer version and share it on here. Just in case you, too, feel overwhelmed with everything in December and are looking for some way to mark each day of Advent.

Some of these are specific to things I'm hoping to do this Advent, some might sound unfamiliar to you, and some might not work with your schedule or time or season of life. Feel free to switch the days around or substitute your own ideas. I'll be back with another post breaking the list down a little more and sharing some of my favorite poems, verses, and quotes about's a list of the silly and the sweet, the small and the sacred. Here's to a life of that, and to a joy-filled Advent.

Happy December, friends. Let us be awake and keep watch.

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