Advent Wreath at Mayodan Moravian Church, Mayodan, NC
(Photo by Cindi Oakley Johnson)

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

I can listen to Andy Williams sing that song on the radio over and over during the holiday season, and it always puts me in a Merry Christmas mood.

But guess what? The most wonderful time of the year for me is the liturgical season of Advent, a time of waiting in the darkness and stillness for the coming of Christ. It’s a renewal of sorts for me that makes this constantly pondering life woman ponder even more.

The word “advent” was part of my vocabulary from an early age. Growing up in the Moravian Church in North Carolina, I loved seeing the large wreath in our sanctuary, and I even had the opportunity to light a candle or two (or three or four) several times as a youth. We had an Advent wreath in our home, too, but it was mainly for decoration; I don’t recall our ever taking a single match to one of those candles.

Then one day in my little Lutheran church in South Carolina, we sang a hymn titled “The Advent of Our God” and  my now adult self paid attention to the words and started to realize what this special four-week season was about. Written by Charles Coffin in 1736, the lyrics speak of God’s “stooping” to become man, taking the form of a servant to set his people free.

When I was married, my husband and I always lit our Advent wreath and sat together in silence after reading a meditation. After his death, I continued this tradition with my sons until they were in high school. For the past 12 years or so, living with only fur babies, I usually light my wreath, ponder, and pray just before heading to bed. My son’s cat of 14 years enjoyed sleeping in that wreath every Advent. In the middle of a few broken candles, maybe he knew there was something special in the air!

Why do I love Advent?

  1. Advent beckons me to slow down and wait. The winter season calls us to slow down anyway, but during Advent, I stay centered regarding who I am as a child of God in the middle of all the mail and ads and frantic pace of life that sadly accompany Christmas. God waited until His chosen time to take on the form of human flesh, so I slow down and wait in the darkness, recalling why He did that; and while I will never wrap my head around this great mystery, I believe…

      2. I dive into the scriptures that speak of the coming Messiah. Year after year, I love soaking in the words of the prophet Isaiah, the angel Gabriel, and John the Baptist. I used to read Charles Dickens’ beloved classic, A Christmas Carol, every year before Christmas; and though I love the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his conversion from miser to merrymaker, I would rather sit with the Messianic prophecies late at night and contemplate the coming Emmanuel,”God with us.” I believe…

      3. Advent reminds me of the mystery and wonder of why Jesus came to earth. Yes, it’s a mystery we will never fully grasp in this life. That’s where faith comes in. In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, he wrote, “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We could go round and round regarding why Jesus was born when he was born or why God became man or was Mary really a virgin and on and on and on. My faith is simultaneously strong and shaky, and I often find myself uttering, “I believe Lord; help my unbelief.” And yet… I believe…

     4. It keeps me outside the commercialization of Christmas. The Christmas songs were alive and well this year at least two weeks before Thanksgiving. I’m thinking that next year someone will dishonor our wonderful service veterans by playing “Deck the Halls” on November 11 (hopefully not!). Sigh. As a young mother, I was all about decorating and making cute crafts with my boys, and that’s A-Okay. Traditions are beautiful things, and as I mentioned earlier, we also had the tradition of lighting our Advent wreath in the evenings. Continuing this practice every year helps me shut out the “Buy, buy, buy” messages and keep the meaning of the season in perspective. A certain department store uses the word “Believe” in its Christmas marketing. I believe… in something greater than Christmas marketing.

I love hearing my fellow parishioners at church wish me a “Blessed Advent.” I return the greeting, and it brings me comfort to know there are many others who hold this time of year as holy and as a time of eager anticipation and preparation.

Slow down, ponder, wait, prepare… it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Believe…

 

Amy Walton is a multi-certified women’s life coach, speaker, and writer based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. You can find her every night during the season of Advent sitting by her Advent wreath in eager anticipation. Amy coaches in person (in her area), or via Skype or FaceTime. Connect with her at http://www.amywaltoncoaching.com or at amywaltoncoaching@gmail.com.