“What are you doing for Advent, Heidi-dear?” I was visiting a former high school teacher while home from college on Christmas break. The Irish Sisters of Mercy tended to call me “Heidi-dear,” either all one word or with a hyphen. I looked at Sr. Evangelist and exclaimed, “Advent? I have to do something for Advent, are you sure, Sister?” “Yes,” she replied, explaining that Advent is a time of preparation for the coming of Christ, no doubt wondering how I graduated from Billings Central Catholic High School without knowing this. Advent was kind of like Lent, only shorter.
I can laugh at that silly twenty-year-old me now. Now the idea of spending time in quiet contemplation and peaceful preparation for Christmas sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? While I can still get wound around the axle about waiting for Someone who is already here, I really appreciate the time of pondering. I try to spend time every evening sitting in the light of the tree and a candle, maybe with some instrumental music playing softly. I love the Isaiah readings, with Isaiah offering God’s comfort to the people suffering in exile. I love the hope and expectation of a young Mary heavy with her firstborn child. I love seeing the Christmas lights illuminating a long winter’s night. The music. A fire in the fireplace. It all seems to get better each year.
I’m reading some lovely Advent books this time, like “Meeting Christ at Broadway and Bethlehem,” by Edward Hays, who offers it free, as a download here: https://www.edwardhays.com/meeting-christ-at-broadway–bethlehem.html While Advent is well underway, this daily meditation booklet is easy to jump into at any point. And Ed Hays’ wit and wisdom will charm your socks right off. I’m also enjoying “Celtic Advent—40 Days of Devotions to Christmas,” by David Cole. I’m sure Sr. Evangelist would approve, first because it’s Irish and second, the Celtic Advent is a full forty days!
Truthfully, the times that I have really felt closer to Christ this Advent have been during chilly morning walks and quiet evenings with a candle. The chilly and the warm, the dark of winter with shining Christmas lights. And soon these long nights will begin to grow shorter, minute by minute, with the Winter Solstice. The Christmas season may mean we have many things to do, but Advent encourages us to just be…be still. If we can carve out a few minutes each day to just be still our hearts will be ready for the One who is already here. Maybe we will even find God there—in our hearts.
Gracious God, help us to take time each day to be still and find you with us. You don’t make noisy entrances or much commotion when you’re near so we may miss you. We need to turn down the volume of our lives to find you. We long for you and welcome your presence…your already-here-ness among us.