in memory, glimmers expectantly in the here and now. Yet this year, more than most, I'm aware of the demands that Advent makes on me.
I wonder how often we romanticize Advent. Dim lights, soft colors. Hymns in a minor key. The liturgy is muted, but not stripped bare. There are no set fasts, no elected penances. The story line twirls around visits from angels, swaddled infants, pastoral scenes of shepherds and foreign visitors bearing a whiff of mystery. The sort of season you can settle into a comfortable chair with and let soak in.
It is a time of getting — for a child will be born unto us, a son will be given to us...and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace — not a time of surrender. Giving up is for Lent — into your hands I commend my spirit.
This week, someone asked me for my "widow's mite" -- all that I had left to in a particular area of my life. I gave it away, but it hurt all the while. Now I'm contemplating generosity and poverty. Is it generous when it costs me nothing, or makes me feel good? Is it generous if it still hurts a day later? If I complain about the loss? The likely answers are yes, yes, yes and yes.
Pregnancy and birth (and child-rearing) are all calls to surrender. They are messy, at times painful, ways to grow. Advent's story is not a sweet tale of young mothers, but a call to hand over everything, in pain and in joy. Time to take off the rose-colored glasses and pray for clarity and wisdom and hope as I wade into Advent.