Ask me to identify my favorite season of the spiritual year, and I will answer Advent - that period of four Sundays prior to Christmas where we anticipate the coming of God in human form. I have always found meaningful the symbolism of getting my spiritual house decorated and ready by representing that symbol through the decorating of my home for the holiday season.
For the first time in my life, the first Sunday of Advent came and went. My house and my heart were both unprepared for guests of any sort - holy or otherwise. Chalk it up to unseasonably warm weather, an early Thanksgiving, wondering and wandering of late in a spiritual desert of my own making, or what have you. My anticipation factor was not registering on anyone’s scale.
This past Wednesday, though, we took our freshmen choirs to Crown Center to sing, and the response of our largely senior citizen audience gave me a low grade buzz. Friday brought a double whammy - first, my chamber choir dressed like characters from the Polar Express, rode a real train for 90 minutes with a 150 or so second graders, singing and entertaining them with the magic of the season, followed that evening with my upperclass advanced choirs singing for the Mayor’s Christmas Tree lighting. Music has always been a crucial part of my Advent preparation. It was beginning to feel a little like Christmas.
On Saturday, taking a few baby steps, we bought a tree and brought the decorations down from the attic. No decorating, but a step in the right direction. I began to think about gift giving, and that evening, thanks to a friend in the cast, we went to see “Christmas at Resurrection” at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. I’m not usually one for church Christmas “pageants” or what I sometimes find as manipulative “productions,” but this was neither. It was a production, but it was entertaining and tastefully done, and even the live burro behaved onstage. More than a production, it was reminder of why I love Advent, and why my personal faith is expressed through the Christian spiritual tradition. In spite of spiritual and theological questions with which I continue to wrestle, I was reminded why I anticipate God’s coming again in human form each year in the person of Jesus. As Adam Hamilton, the COR pastor briefly “unpacked” the experience last night - God gave us Jesus - God in human form - so that we might have an example of how to live in order to be fully human.
I don’t think I have anything wise to say that can top that.
For the record, on this second Sunday of Advent, my home is decorated, and my spirit is anticipating.
O come, o come, Emmanuel . . .