Expectations & Advent
Advent signals the “take off” of the Church’s liturgical year at a time when I’m simply struggling to guide my calendar year to a “safe landing.” For me, like so many others, there’s the pressure from multiple quarters to “end the year strong,” to be ready for what the new year will bring, and to accomplish everything that needs to get done in “The Season.” It doesn’t matter if most of your time and effort is spent in the home, the workplace, or even the church – many of us face added pressure this time of year.
And our devotional lives may likewise feel the effects. For some of us Advent adds feelings of overwhelm or inadequacy by layering on an expectation of a time of special devotions that incorporates readings, calendars, meditations, and candles… Managing the expectations can be exhausting. But “expectations can drown relationships.”
Rather than the addition of another layer to our devotional practices, Advent offers a respite. A sabbath of sorts to reorient, remember, and even recharge. No matter the season of life or the church, God delights to meet us in the reality of where we really are – not where we want or pretend to be, but in the internal reality of our hearts, because that’s the only way to make any real progress in the spiritual life.
In the resurrection of Jesus we have the freedom and safety to be right where we are, to name it without fear and deception, and confess where we are in the light of the incarnation, the cross, and the resurrection. Michael Ramsey, the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury, reminds us, “You are with God not by achieving certain devotional exercises in his presence but by daring to be yourself as you reach towards him.” No matter the circumstances or how busy the season, may each of us be mindful of his presence to reach out and take firm hold of the hand of Christ.