As I write this, the calendar still says November. Thanksgiving isn’t here, yet. Outside my window, our first snow of the season makes everything look more like December. And the wind is howling like January.
But according to our church calendar, it’s almost time to celebrate the beginning of a brand new year.
One of the gifts of our faith tradition is the liturgical calendar, which always invites us to a be in touch with a deeper, truer rhythm of life that counters the frenetic pace our clocks and calendars, and even the weather outdoors, urge us toward. The first month of the liturgical calendar, the “new year” of the church, is the four-Sunday-long season of Advent, which begins on November 30th.
The word advent means “coming” or “coming into being”—a perfect way to signal the start of something new.
The observance of Advent beckons us to slow our pace, to sharpen our focus, and just breathe. It invites us to steal away and find room in our lives to reflect, and reminds us that there’s no reason to rush. It gives us permission to be in a slightly different way.
The original, larger, Advent story is the story of Mary, the one who was greeted by an Angel and invited to become the mother of the Christ child. The original story is layered with events and questions that apply directly to our story: The Lord is with you. Do not be afraid. How can this be? Nothing will be impossible with God. (See Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 1.) We only have to step into the larger story of that first Advent by reflecting on its meaning for our own lives: How is the Lord with me, and with those I love? What do I fear? What wonder in my own life raises the question, “How can this be?” What evidence is there that with God all things are possible?
Stepping into the larger story of Advent reminds us that in order to celebrate and welcome the Christ child, we don’t have to have the perfect plans, the perfect family, or the perfectly decorated house. Reflection alters our perceptions and deepens and redirects our energy so we don’t have to feel so scattered and driven.