“God reveals himself to us in the commonest events, in a manner as mysterious but as real and adorable as in the great events of history and the Sacred Scriptures.” —
Fr. J.P. de Caussade, S.J., Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence
Ahhhhh. Can you feel the warmth of the single lit candle? Advent has begun.
This has become one of my favorite times of year, but this year, it was made even more special when I was asked to speak at an Advent event at a local parish across the river. The event was a fundraiser for a mothers’ group to raise funds for babysitting expenses and other operating costs. Beyond that, it was a beautiful evening of pretty tables uniquely decorated, each individually by a table host, and with distinct desserts and table settings. It took place in a dimly-lit room, illuminated mostly by candlelight. As the women chatted preceding the evening’s introduction, a lone, beautiful voice sounded above the din, seemingly having come out of nowhere: “Pre-e-e-pare ye the way of the Lord. Pre-e-e-pare ye the way of the Lord!”
It was a dramatic beginning to a night of music, carols, dessert, prayer, and my talk, which included the playing of Amy Grant’s powerful song, “Emmanuel.” To say that I felt honored to be a part of this evening as a speaker is a vast understatement, but even if I were to have come as a participant only, I would have claimed it as one of the most meaningful ways I’ve ever experienced the onset of Advent.
I called my talk “The Blessed Waiting,” weaving the waiting of Advent into the waiting my friend Roberta, the founder of the group, had endured in this last year as she battled leukemia. I felt Roberta’s presence in the writing of the presentation, and I felt her all around us as we basked in the glow of the candlelight on Monday evening. The waiting wasn’t always easy on Roberta, but it was fruitful. It brought new insight, an expanding surrender to God’s will, and the chance to express love in a deeper way than had been possible before. I’m inspired by Roberta to let this Advent be one in which the waiting will count more than ever, and I challenged those present to the same.
Despite this grand beginning to the season, the next day the realization came that I hadn’t so much as put my Advent wreath and candles on the kitchen table, as is our family’s annual custom. It was time to put into practice within my home a little of the spirit of Advent I’d taken in during Monday’s special gathering. Alas, the purple candle has been lit for two dinners now, and a short Advent reflection read. I’ve also instituted the new tradition of going around the table and sharing “Random Acts of Kindness” sightings to help the kids become more aware of the good that we are doing and seeing others do in our lives.
In my talk Monday night, I suggested simplicity as a goal this Advent. So I’m taking my own advice, though in a busy family of seven, it’s very hard to limit activities. We have a mid-winter dance recital Monday, an Advent program Thursday, and a variety of other activities in between. Still, there will be little decorating at this early stage in the season. I’m intent on maintaining a reflective heart, to seriously ponder how I can best make the waiting blessed and fruitful so that when we celebrate the Savior’s entrance into the earthly world several weeks from now, I’ll be ready.
Q4U: How are you keeping things simple this Advent? What is one Advent tradition your family has kept going through the years?