By Laurel Pattenden
While writing these articles for Huron Church News, I have always tried to either follow the seasons of the Church year or the four seasons of the calendar year. However there are other seasons in our lives that touch us and change us. These seasons do not follow any prescribed rotation. So I got to wondering if our own seasons change the meaning of Advent.
While looking at the season of Advent, which is always the beginning of the Church year lasting 22 to 28 days, which always begins in the late fall of the Canadian calendar year. Two to four months prior to this I always (or nearly) purchase a new Advent book or two. This year I purchased Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Away in the Manger” plus another called “Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas” with a collection various noted authors. So these are the set seasons, agree?
Looking over my collection of Advent books purchased over the years, I started to think about how my seasons have changed. Some of these books were read when I was a young mother and trying to put together the whole Christmas thing. A few would have been read while my mother had cancer. Another couple would have been read while my father was aging and needed care. A couple were read as an expectant grandmother and then as a grandmother.
From a world perspective, Advent books have been read during World War I and World War II. People have read them during the Depression and following 9/11. Many who were experiencing the financial collapse of 2008, read Advent devotional books.
You have perhaps read Advent devotionals through every season of your life. Birthing and welcoming new family and saying goodbye to your loved ones. Taking on new opportunities and letting go of those that no longer nourished you. We have read during times of feeling uninvited in this world, during loneliness and also during those times when life was pure sailing.
These many examples may have been our own or collective seasons of life. So going back to the question of how our own seasons affect the meaning of Advent. This period of waiting. I think we can all agree the meaning does not change but I think it can change the intensity and mindfulness of our waiting. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this question: “Who among us will celebrate Christmas correctly?” (You can research his answer or just buy the above mentioned book.) Let’s change his question to this: “Who among us will wait through Advent correctly?”
I think Oscar Romero, who spoke these following words on December 24, 1978, answered this question very well. “No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God – for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.” (This quote can be found in the second Advent book mentioned earlier.)
Taking in Oscar Romero’s words, I will wait through Advent, spending time to ponder the reality that I truly have nothing, I am not self-sufficient and that I need someone to come on my behalf. I am one who is poor in spirit. No matter what season I am personally in, during Advent, I will acknowledge this season by my poverty of spirit.
What season are you in this Advent?
Laurel is retired and likes to spend her time in her art studio.