Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Cost and Joy of Discipleship: Advent Reflections

Do you ever wake up on a Saturday morning, and your body and your mind are all oriented toward getting up and going to work; maybe you're anticipating the day with dread, maybe with eagerness, but either way, you're gearing up, lingering in the warmth of the duvet for just a few more minutes .... and then you realize it's Saturday. You know that delicious feeling in the first few moments when you realize you don't have to get up? When the whole orientation of your body and mind shifts? You rest back into the warmth, your face and body relaxes, maybe you sigh and smile, and your mind turns with a different, slower sort of anticipation ... of more sleep, or a pancake breakfast, family time, domestic chores.

That's what Advent always feels like to me. I've always loved new beginnings, that back-to-school feeling of new clothes and blank copy books, freshly sharpened pencils, everything new and fresh and full of hope and anticipation. I love the new calendar year in the same way, that sense that everything is possible with a fresh start, last year's failed resolutions be damned! But as someone relatively new to observing the Christian liturgical year, Advent -- a season of anticipation that also begins the new church year -- often creeps up on me. It's like this little gift of a new beginning, tucked between back-to-school in September and the New Year in January, all the more fresh and delightful because I often sort of forget about it, especially when it falls so closely on the heals of Thanksgiving, as it has this year.

So this morning I woke up, early as usual, made coffee and began noodling around on Facebook as is my usual morning routine, thinking about getting ready for church, getting myself oriented toward the busyness of a Sunday morning for my family -- and then I remembered: it's the first Sunday in Advent.

And what a delightful moment when I realized, because I love Advent! Advent is about nesting, full of domestic chores as we prepare our home to welcome a new child in the bleak midwinter. Advent is the most female of the liturgical seasons, pregnant and full with heavy, round bellies. I used to think Advent should be so quiet and peaceful and contemplative, and was often annoyed by how busy and hectic and even cranky it can be, especially as Christmas gets near. But if you've ever known a woman in the last few weeks of pregnancy, no matter how much she has loved being pregnant, she just wants that baby out NOW. She's usually tired, uncomfortable, and a little cranky that this child still hasn't made its appearance. Mary may be the very mother of God, but I doubt she was any different. Advent is her ninth month of pregnancy, and ours too. We may not have a baby Jesus pressing on our bladders and our sciatic nerves, but we ought to have him pressing in other ways that make us a little uncomfortable and tired as we wait with eager anticipation for his arrival, for all the freshness and mystery -- not to mention all the hard work -- that a new child brings.

A couple of years ago in Advent, I made a discipline of going to noon Mass almost every day. It was lovely, and sort of gave structure to the otherwise chaotic nature of this busy season leading up to Christmas. One of the things I'm preparing for in the New Year is to get more serious about my writing, and so for my Advent discipline this year, I am planning to blog every day.

That's a lot of blogging, especially for me. So if you have anything you've been dying to ask me about, now's the time. Ask away -- as those who know me well can attest, there's very little I'm not willing to blather on about!


Lilian said...

That's a beautiful post! Hmmm, let's see, I know I may think of more things in due time, but now I'm curious to hear more your thoughts on Catholicism and your spiritual journey (you've mentioned something about this sometime back).

Look at my word verification! "Gemist" -- makes me think of someone who works with precious gems or something, or maybe a blend of mist and gem. :-)

What Mama Sews said...

I couldn't have imagined a more beautiful and helpful response to my question - thanks! (you should publish this one)