Monday, December 1, 2008

Advent Is...

Let me set this up for you...

Yesterday (Sunday) was the first Sunday of Advent. Our liturgist had read the first scripture for the day, and about half of the second one. She closed her Bible and then said "oops, I didn't finish that one. Hold on while I get back to it." or something to that effect. Then she said that we could all enjoy that "pregnant pause" while pondering the first part of the scripture lesson.

I love that phrase "pregnant pause"... it's been rolling around in my head all day. I thought about it while my pastor and I, with other friends, talked about the season of Advent and what that means. I am up out of bed at nearly half past twelve because that phrase was chewing at my brain.

Pregnant Pause may be the tidiest summation of advent that we have. It's a little space of time in our lives where we anxiously await the coming of something... a something that is the Best Sort Of Surprise (I feel very A.A. Milne in typing that) because you know that it's coming, and you're excited about it anyway. There are lots of discussions right now, I'm sure, about Advent, and it's meaning. Whether this should be a time of spare, austere, Lenten-style preparation, or a frenetic Black Friday-style preparation. I feel like they're two very different sorts... but maybe neither one is really what Advent is about. When Christ came to us in the simplest, smallest form of hope that we could readily grasp and digest and understand, there was a gift that we didn't anticipate, maybe. A gift of knowing how to prepare for that type of hope. To me, Advent is a lot like waiting for a baby... any baby. It's a time to reflect on all the wonderful things you want the world to be for new little person. A time to take even just a few small steps towards realizing that dream... a little extra kindness. A tiny bit of charity. Some small change, an extra smile. As a mother, I think of the light of Advent the same way I remember the soft, warm light in the delivery room. It's dim, but it's enough to see by. It's not stark, or scary, or threatening. It isn't the blinding light of Easter morning at the tomb... it's the same gentle color as candleglow and rosy sunsets. It's winter firelight, and the welcoming light of home through the window. When a baby is coming, there's lots to do, but it's the kind of work most people seem to enjoy. Dreaming, planning, preparing, hoping. Giving, sharing, opening, making room for someone. You weed out things you don't need cluttering up your space anymore... things you don't use, things that wouldn't be safe or appropriate for a baby, things that are reminders of your life BEFORE you were preparing for a baby. You give it away, recycle it, throw it out. You start to take stock of what you have, and what you'll need, and what you don't want to carry around anymore. And it's a good thing.... because the funny thing about a baby... it's such a tiny package, but as most modern-day parents will tell you, it comes with so much STUFF! Pretty soon, if you let it (or sometimes, in spite of yourself) there's baby-stuff everywhere. And a very little person who isn't ready to take care of themselves not only comes with lots of STUFF... it comes with a whole new set of priorities and responsibilities that you couldn't have imagined in your wildest dreams. They say "a baby changes everything." They are not kidding. Fully grown, 'responsible' adults will allow their entire lives to be reordered by a baby.

Our Awesome God must have known something in offering the world that tiny baby so long ago... what in the world but a baby could embody hope so tidily, awaken our desire to nurture and protect so readily, and cause us to embrace a life-altering course so willingly? Nothing I can think of. A baby is the physical manifestation of every biological and spiritual urge to leave something of ourselves in the world. A baby, even a very important baby, needs to be held, nourished, nurtured and loved or it will not survive, or grow. A baby makes normally rational, orderly, organized people do very irrational, disorganized things. The God who created us and nurtured us; then came to us in the most humble and helpless form we could understand, had hope and faith in us, that we would take that baby into our lives. Every year at Advent, we prepare again to accept that gift. We make a place. In a world of fast-paced and furious events, we can take advantage of that pregnant pause. I believe that if we let it, (or maybe in spite of ourselves) that tiny baby could enter the place we've made, and maybe overtake our priorities and fill our lives with amazing, beautiful baby stuff. Yes, a baby changes everything.