A few things come to mind when I hear the word Advent. Christmas. Childhood. St. Thomas by the Sea the little church on Panama City Beach that became our spiritual home. Manger scenes and the cold of Winter. My mother's Nativity Scene coming down from the attic and us setting it up with that child-like sense of wonder.
What I never thought of was the thing that sometimes must accompany Expectation is the Willingness to leave all behind. To embark on a new journey. To cast our eyes toward something instead of looking behind.
In this mornings readings my eyes fell to the story of Jesus calling his disciples. Hey You, fisherman dude. Yeah, that's right, I'm talking to you. I've chosen you.
I can see a smelly, fisherman like one of the guys from my old neighborhood that had fished all night and opened a natty light for breakfast. That little boy jump in his stomach that this man is singling him out. Seeing beyond the fish guts and the bloodshot eyes, the callused hands. Seeing something worthy in him that says, I've chosen you. But that momentary flutter of odd pride snaps to reality when he hears . . .
Drop that net. Follow me - now. Don't look back. Leave those fish where they are. Time to go.
Ummm, but . . . but . . .
But this Man called Jesus is already moving on, talking to someone else, walking forward.
In that moment there is self-doubt. Did He call me? He called me right? There's the tried ache of back muscles from pulling heavy nets, and a mind that could use a few hours sleep. The clothes could really use a wash and maybe a meal would be good. Three cans of Natty on an empty stomach not the best of breakfasts. And the sound of that voice, that compelling voice, is traveling farther away. A decision has to be reached. Not later, or tomorrow or on a rested, full stomach. Now.
Many things in life do not arrive in what might appear to be convenient times for us. Advent is no different. Sometimes we expect the birth, we follow the star, we've geared up our hearts to follow, follow, follow and still - there is the messy moment of stepping away. Leaving the comfort of our old habits, abodes, mindsets, village, tribe and facing the calling that is upon us. This impetus to answer the call of this longing for something wondrous that is yet to come.
But, in spite of all - heartbreak, loose ends, tired minds and weary shoulders, still - we answer. Therein lies the magic.
The looking forward to something is sometimes - everything. In itself it is Fulfillment. Hope. Peace. Healing.
When I was expecting my first child I had the gift of a rare moment. One of those where time slowed so perceptibly I didn't wonder about it or question I was experiencing - I simply embraced it.
I was full of child. Nine months and counting and standing in my little kitchen in South Florida north of Hollywood, a sudden breeze came through the kitchen window, the light spilled in and across the counter. Looking back, I was so, so very young. So full of not knowing really what was to come. Or the way the years would rise and fall and twist and turn ahead.
The eventual fulfillment of those nine months, the anticipation of holding my child wasn't my focus in that moment. The minutes moved carefully forward as if they were actually aware of me, determined to give me an opportunity to fully appreciate them before time shifted into another season. One of mother and child instead of mother-to-be and baby becoming. I closed my eyes and was as fully in that moment as any of my life. Possessing expectation. Breathing expectation. A Holy Expectation full of wonder.
As we move into this season of Advent I'll be exploring the themes and moments that the season brings us and how we meet them right where we are.
I do so hope you'll join me.
Greetings Good Readers during this season of Thankfulness.
When Praying for Strangers was first published I received many requests to also write a companion piece, a type of how-to or study guide. For those of you interested in using that you can find it (hopefully) under the Praying for Strangers book link. There you will find 12 cool keys to praying for strangers and on better days a link to a 40 day Lenten blog where I wrote daily about walking through Lent in a very, human, culturally intact, spiritual way. While not easy to commit to that and sometimes posts were at midnight, I happen to like Lent. It comes natural to me. It fits nicely with my inner desire for contemplation and running away to the desert like those Christian mystics who are near and dear to my heart. The desert Fathers and Mothers that ran to God and away from people. Shut themselves off for a little serious quiet time. According to the wonderful writer Evelyn Underhill the point of going away is to fill up with the Mystery of God and return to the people, not to embark on a long vacation into silence and rest.
Well, we all have our callings. We all run to or away from them. Most of us do both on any given day seven times each way. Which brings me to Advent.
As most of my readers know I was raised by the tribe of Eeyore. This means - yes, Lent do come natural. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. So it is with deliberate pause that I consider the coming Advent Season. Then I considered writing a daily entry during the Advent Season. Then I committed to doing it. Just now. This morning. And, the best way to force my hand quickly was to write to you and tell you - Advent cometh and in the days ahead I'll be exploring a few words everyday about signs and wonders in our midst. Of new beginnings and hope in the darkness. New birth. Miracles.
I hope you'll join me on this Advent journey as we look toward the turn to a new calendar year.
Thanks so much for reading, liking and sharing with friends.