What time is it? Advent Time!
Jennifer Shadle is a junior in the Master of Divinity program at Seminary of the Southwest. Jennifer's home diocese is the Diocese of Colorado. Prior to coming to seminary, Jennifer served as the department chair for the Music Department at Colorado State University - Pueblo.
Every year, I greet Advent with the heightened excitement, and undertone of dread, that we have come to associate with the month of December in postmodern America. My defense against the rampant commercialism is to deny its existence, refuse to participate in “sales events,” and inevitably discover with a shock of chagrin that I have something like four days left to do any of the traditional baking, decorating, and card-writing that I really enjoy doing.
For most of my adult life I have been a choral musician. November and December have been crammed with rehearsals and concerts and special church services (I even think the Service of Lessons and Carols is more exciting that a visit from St. Nicholas!) But this year I am a seminarian, in the first semester of a Master of Divinity degree. During this Advent, I will complete a daunting list of final assignments and then sink gratefully into a couple of weeks of . . . dare I say it? . . . free time.
Time to sleep later, time to spend with family, time to prepare. Advent time.
The earth knows that something big is about to happen, and our weather settles into its fitful, gloomy cycle of winter darkness even as our hearts begin to long for respite from all the activity and distraction that consumes us. We hear the ancient words of Isaiah, somehow both comforting and a little unnerving, telling us that we have work to do – make straight the highway! – before we get to dance jubilantly into Bethlehem. And then like one of those odd days in a Texas December when the sun beams and the temperature soars, John bursts into our world with his blazing call to repentance and preparation for the coming of God’s Kingdom.
There is the heart of Advent. Jesus comes to us, whether we expect him or invite him; he will come, even if we get too busy to notice his arrival. Advent is the time for anticipating and preparing, for taking a hard look at myself and finding those things that need to be turned around – the places where, in the words of one of my classmates, I need to “push the Restart button.” It is the time for clearing the rough places from my heart and making the way smooth for a miracle to be born there.
Into this world’s darkest, most clamorous, and most fearful places, Hope and incomprehensible Love will come.