So the Irwin household has had at least 1 out of 4 sick everyday for the past 28 days. We passed around a pretty severe cold, followed by a 36 hour stomach bug. Yeah. Merry Christmas to us right?
Needless to say, this Advent has not been our normal one. It’s my first Advent as an Associate Pastor (which means a lot less preaching than I’m used to this time of year). It’s my first Advent as a family of 4. It’s my first Advent that I’ve had to explain the differences between Santa and Jesus to my 4 1/2 year old son (parents, I’m sure you feel my pain). And being sick so much, it’s my first Advent where I’ve missed 2 Sundays, and had to skip out on anything social.
Growing up in the Episcopal Church, Advent was a big deal. We spent weeks preparing for Advent, setting aside time to make Advent wreaths for our homes, Advent calendars for each of the kids, rehearsing for the Children’s play, and preparing for the Lessons and Carols event. Not to mention the time we spent caroling, baking cookies, and attending all sorts of fun celebrations.
Yes, the anticipation of the season was incredible. By the time we made it to midnight services on Christmas Eve, we were thrilled and exhausted all at the same time. Why? Because it’s Advent, preparation for the main event, for the celebration of the birth of Christ.
Since then, I’ve changed traditions to United Methodism and changed roles from laity to clergy, and the differences have been profound. Yes, I’m still busy in December. Extremely busy. Sometimes even overwhelmingly busy. And yes, I still enjoy many of the same traditions I grew up with (though I haven’t found an Advent calendar to rival the ones we filled with Hershey’s kisses). However, the biggest difference for me as clergy is the active anticipation. No longer just a participant, I now set the tone, extend the invitation, and lead the anticipation. It’s definitely more exhausting, but as a person called to ordained ministry, it’s an amazing opportunity.
Now, at Advent, despite all the busy-ness (and sickness), my role is to invite people to peace on earth found through Jesus Christ. I invite them to anticipate God’s kingdom as they celebrate God coming to earth. And though I’m definitely not the one in charge of it all, I get the privilege of leading people in celebration of the long-awaited king.
I guess Advent hasn’t changed a lot since I was a kid. I still follow the liturgical calendar. I still light Advent candles. I still bake A LOT. And in active anticipation, I prepare for Jesus’s birthday, and invite others to do the same.