(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Shh—keep the noise levels down, OK? At least in our house we’re celebrating Advent—Christmas can wait—and it will.

According to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s website, “The season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year and comprises the four weeks before Christmas.” As New Year’s celebrations go, Advent is pretty low key—except for the lessons telling about John the Baptist and his apocalyptic warnings.

I am an Advent person, too. Unlike John, though, I don’t dress myself in camel-hair cloaks or eat locusts dipped in wild honey. But I do believe that by skipping the waiting and longing, the depth of Christmas is diluted.

Thus, I am that curmudgeon who snarls involuntarily when I hear Christmas music in stores long before Thanksgiving. No wonder most people want to stop celebrating Christmas right when it’s just beginning. Me, I’m only breaking out the Christmas tunes and decorations in the days before December 25.

The way we in the U.S. celebrate Christmas, you’d think Jesus was born in the Ritz Carlton, not in something less substantial than a barn. And, you’d think the story began and ended with his birth.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m OK with reasonable gift-giving, celebrations, decorations, etc., but I believe it’s easier to understand the true gift if you slow down enough to walk beside the very pregnant Mary as she rides that donkey toward her destiny. All the frantic activity of our current celebratory practices has developed as a way to distract ourselves from the darkness that comes with the long nights of December.

Some years my life really is in such a place of light that maybe I forget how much I need the true light that arrives with the babe in Bethlehem. But even in those joyful years, I try to delay some of the excitement so I’m not overly distracted from what matters during the season.

Other years, it’s easy to understand the concept of waiting for a light to shine hope into my own darkness. And while those are the times when I am tempted to call off the whole celebration, that’s when I need to remember this principle the most: the light comes for all, whether or not our burdens are heavy or light. It’s up to us to understand that the gift is bigger than the immediate fixes we want for ourselves or those we love whose journeys have turned hard.

(c) 2010 Trina Lambert

Good times or bad, I try to pull back from the machine and find ways to quiet myself. My techniques to nurture hopeful waiting are both physical—in the form of regular exercise—and spiritual.

I love that Advent’s color in our church tradition is a cool blue, signifying that hope. Blue is a color that doesn’t hurry—you can rest in blue. Blue understands that sometimes hearts get heavy. Blue is also Mary’s color.

Yet the craziness of our own household’s Thanksgiving weekends—so far—has frustrated my vow to start the first Sunday in Advent by lighting the first blue candle in our own home Advent candle-holder. One thing I can rely on, however, is receiving Pastor Ron Glusenkamp’s daily H20 Devos to align my sense of time with the calendar’s date (his post for today, December 6, is appropriately “blue” in tone.)

Eventually I set out the blue candles for these early December days, even if I don’t light them as I wish.

Yesterday in church I realized that the irony of having my mother in hospice means that what I wait for most this season in this year is for my mom to experience the light coming into this world by her leaving this world.

Thoughts like that also make me aware of needing just a little more light in my personal world in the days ahead.

So for now our tree stands simply lighted and “skirted” with a swath of blue fabric—before we pull out the rest of the Christmas trappings. I deliberately darken the room, then sit to watch the lights twinkle—while I wait.

And in that moment, once again I am an Advent person and all is calm. Come, Lord Jesus . . .

(c) 2010 Christiana Lambert