Growing up, my Advent calendar was made of decorative blue cardboard with simple paper flaps that folded back and revealed religious holiday images: an angel, a star, a shepherd and, eventually, a nativity scene. Since it was used year after year, the flaps didn’t always stay closed which allowed this impatient child to sneak a peek at the treats for the coming days.
My 1950s calendar was very simple compared to what is available today. If you do a quick search you will find a multitude of themed choices ranging from chocolate to wine. There is even a Lego Advent calendar, although daily assembly is required.
Lest you worry that knitters have been forgotten, there are patterns featuring a different color or design for each day of Advent. These are usually built around 24 days of surprises so that the hat or scarf can be gifted on Christmas morning. Periodically, a yarn store may offer a very pricey calendar that contains 25 unique skeins providing the recipient with a daily tactile experience and the added benefit of stash building.
Such varied product availability is the reason that after surviving months of political endorsements, we are now inundated with holiday ads all promoting a sense of “must have-ness;” ads with the potential to take us further and further away from the original intent of the seasonal holydays of Hanukkah and Christmas.
Hanukkah – the festival of lights, commemorating a time of miracles when the faith of the Jewish people sustained them to reclaim their holy temple and keep the light of the menorah burning for eight days.
Advent – the weeks of preparation before Christmas, the celebration of the humble birth of Jesus in a stable; days that Rev. Megan Lloyd Joiner calls “the waiting time.”
But waiting can be hard especially when Christmas-themed stores are open year-round and two-day delivery requires just a click of the mouse. In a society reveling in perpetual motion, the idea of waiting is often translated into a sense of doing nothing. That we are somehow disloyal or disconnected if we seek the quiet or admit to being overwhelmed by the barrage of 24/7 news reporting on the war in Ukraine, or volcanic eruptions in Indonesia, or the nearly daily gun violence in the United States.
For this feeling of disconnection Rev. Joiner offers this advice “…not just to wait, but to wait actively: to do the work of preparing hearts and tilling the soil that awaits seeds of hope and love … to be present in each moment of waiting.”
Or as Rev. Luke Stevens-Royer preached last Sunday in his annual “Humbug” sermon there is “the reminder to slow down, be it by blizzard of the sky or blizzard of the soul. That to pause, to wait, to rest, is not an invitation to isolation or hibernation but, when the world feels like storm, it is our natural reminder to pause … to find ways of entering the season with intention.”
With the beginning of Hanukkah yesterday at nightfall, as Advent continues and as we approach the Winter Solstice when we explore seasons and cycles and celebrate the light of days growing longer (if only by seconds), may you enjoy lighting a candle (or eight); may you “be present in each moment of waiting” and may you “find ways of entering the season with intention.”
Photo credit: Marcus Spiske from Prexels