Anything that mitigates against relationships becomes something to avoid. As a general rule, I don’t do Black Friday sales. Shopping local on Saturday after Black Friday is more to my liking. When stores years ago began opening for Black Friday sales on Thursday evenings, it became obvious that our commitment to capitalism had surpassed our commitments to relationships, to eating pie, leftovers, and playing games.
I want Thanksgiving, and the days after to be about family, friends, and community. And when family is at a distance, we create families with new friends. We take time to play, and talk, and to share a table.
Abrupt Entry to Advent
From the hectic days of American Thanksgiving to the quiet stillness of Advent is an abrupt change. The house is not yet cleaned. Family guests are still here. Normal schedules are decimated. And the leftovers are still in the refrigerator. Before the taste of the feast of gratitude is off our tongue, it is time for Advent.
We Just Got Done Preparing
Now, we have to prepare again. In some ways, preparing sucks. Days come when I’d rather not do anything, or prepare to do anything. The very thought of doing whatever comes next makes me want to escape. Escape expectations. Escape the anxiety of getting ready to get ready. Check lists, either on my phone, on the fridge, or sticky notes. Too many things to gather. Too much to do. Too much….
Preparing to do nothing may be the best. As Wendy Wright notes, in her first thoughts in The Vigil:
The ancient desert dwellers of our early Christian communities tell us the surest way into the heart of God is to be still…. So I invite you to begin by becoming attentive to the stillness as well. Seek it first it in your home. Go at night to the darkened room of your sleeping child and breathe in the moist, quick raisings of your child’s breath…Listen next for the stillness as you venture out of doors…. Turn finally to your own heart…At the core, buried beneath the turbulence of emotions rubbed raw by life’s labor…In that primordial stillness beats the heart of God.
The painting above, Monk by the Sea, by Friedrich, depicts a monk alone by the sea. For some it is a lonesome appearance. But I imagine a monk, on a daily sojourn for the stillness of God, standing still once the beauty of God’s quietness caught him. On the horizon, the dark clouds appear to indicate arriving storms. Yet, atop the blackening furry, is blue sky. There is calm. It is not far, and it can be found.
Too Much to Do
Advent presses in subtly, gently. Like a shy child with a question, but not wanting to disturb us, she abides quietly, unnoticed. It may feel like a chore to find Advent. To write and send greeting cards, to plan decorations and gifts and meals, and plan too much.
In the clutter of our lives, stillness longs to be heard. Quiet longs to be embraced.
Keep it simple. This week, as Advent begins, find some quiet stillness and listen.