Some years, Christmas preparations are more of a struggle than other years. Maybe you put off shopping and miss the shipping deadlines. Or you wait too long to get a tree and all that’s left are the Charlie Brown specials. Of course, there is always at least one year when everyone gets a bad flu. That can make things a little rough.
For us, the trouble started right off the bat with the Advent wreath. We had the greenery, ribbons, and sparkly ornaments. My daughter was excited to put it all together. The project was started and then…the first holiday tantrum.
Wreath making halted; wreath maker was sent to Siberia.
Two days later we tried again. The stupid ribbons would not tie right and the stupid ornaments wouldn’t do what she wanted…AHHHHHHH! The candles are crooked. What is wrong with them?! Back to Siberia. It seems that Advent is, indeed, a penitential season.
Today, the 7th day of Advent, the wreath was finally finished, and not a shouted or sarcastic word was uttered. There is even a pile of extra materials to make a fairy house. An Advent miracle.
The wreath that took a week.
There is a theme that comes up in a lot of Advent and end of year reflections: darkness. Sure enough, here in the northern hemisphere, the days are shorter and darker now. That makes darkness a great metaphor as we prepare for Christmas – Jesus as a light in the darkness, we who have walked in darkness have seen a great light.
A lot of times darkness is a metaphor for ignorance, evil, sin, or death. It is a state from which we must be saved.
But I have been thinking about darkness another way. You know who lives is darkness? Fetuses in the womb. And you know what they are doing in the darkness? Growing and preparing to enter a light-filled world. (Even after they are born their pediatricians will tell you they grow while they are sleeping!)
Light – actual and metaphorical – is good. But we all grew in darkness, it was the only way we got ready for the world of sun and incandescent and fire light we all live in. This got me wondering if seasons of metaphorical darkness might be times of growth as well. What do you think?
I know it is almost cliche to think about pregnancy as a metaphor for Advent–the waiting, the preparation for baby Jesus to come. For me, this has literally been true more than once; each of my pregnancies was in the early stages during the Advent season. Putting myself back in that frame of mind and looking forward, I certainly experienced pregnancy as I have often experienced Advent: waiting and preparation to celebrate the arrival of a longed-for child. Getting the house ready, buying clothes and bedding, even reading the special pregnancy scripture–What to Expect When You Are Expecting. LIke I said, cliche.
But looking backward, I see that period in a different light. When you are pregnant, you see that period of time as preparing for the baby. Looking back, it seems more like pregnancy is not the time during which you make room for baby, it is the time during which you prepare to change your life forever. And this happens whether you get the right kind of diapers or not. It isn’t your old life plus one; it is a whole new way of being.
I have never adopted a child, but I am willing to bet the waiting period for adoption works the same way. Once you know it is going to happen, but before your child officially joins your family, you have a waiting period. During that time, you get your house ready and acquire all the things your child will need. But more importantly, you are getting ready to be changed, to enter a whole new life.
This Advent, I am trying to keep that in mind. I’m still shopping and decorating like I did for the arrival of my own children. But I’m also trying to imagine what it means to have Advent make us ready for a whole new life that includes the incarnated God. I may not get it exactly right, which also happened when I had my children. But I’ll get the chance to take that pregnant pause again next year. Changing an inch at a time toward that whole new life.
I am a huge metaphor addict. Truly, I stumble across visual and verbal analogies just about everywhere. There is not much practical use for this tendency in daily life–it has never gotten me anywhere on time and doesn’t get my kids dressed and fed in the morning. But I think it might come in handy this month. Today is the beginning of Advent, a season brimming, bursting with metaphorical possibilities. It is compared to pregnancy, a journey, light. We see blues and purples and pinks with their symbolic meanings. Captivity and freedom. I could go on–and probably will in future posts.
So, you can imagine my dismay when, after lighting our first Advent candle at dinner tonight, I discovered my son has very little regard for metaphor. “Light?” he smirked after reading a passage from Isaiah. “They had light every morning. What is the big deal about light and darkness ? And why is darkness so bad anyway. I like darkness.”
This wasn’t a matter of him not understanding symbolism. He does. But he dissed the whole enterprise. Every time I tried to toss him a metaphorical bone, he tossed it back. I am so flummoxed I can’t even think of what this is like. It is worse than bone tossing.
We’ll be lighting that candle again tomorrow night. He can’t argue or snark himself out of hidden or revealed meanings this time of year. After all, there is a reason he won’t know what his presents are until Christmas morning. They are living in a land of great darkness and light won’t shine on them until…oh, snap!