“There’s snow on the ground,
A cold chill in the morning.
An Advent Haiku. (By me. Just now.)
Hey Christians! I HOPE you realize tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent (see what I did there?).
It’s that time of year where I start to think about getting ready for Christmas. I realize that there are perfectly good traditional meanings and themes attached to each week. The ol’ HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE business. But I use the time differently each year. Some years I give myself a little “pat on the back” for getting through a tough autumn more or less intact and breathe a sigh of relief because of it. Other times I think ahead to the coming weeks and all of the events, both mandatory and optional, that are in store for me. The concerts, the services, the family visits, the work parties, and the gift buying. Each one has its own inherit stresses and rewards. Psychologically, the first Sunday of advent is as good a time as any to hit the “reset” button, take a deep breath, pause, and plunge forward aiming for January 1st and the following year.
Growing up, I would always get this “daily devotional” book from my Mom. One of those things where there is a page for each day of the year, and you’re supposed to read this bible passage and a short little story that somehow relates to the bible passage and then usually there is a prayer at the end of each page too. I never really asked for these things, but I guess my Mom thought this would be a great gift, and I guess I tried to show that I appreciated it by actually reading them, thinking on January 1st, “okay, I can do this. It’ll just take five minutes or so each morning, and maybe it’ll centre me and focus me and get me in the right frame of mind for taking on the day” and I really would start each year faithfully doing it. I’d get about a week into it and then I’d miss a day, so then I’d try to play “make up” and do two at once but then that got weird because you were trying to digest two verses and their accompanying stories in the same morning and things got muddled. So then I decided that if I missed a day, “too bad, so sad”, I’d just move on the next day and that went on for a little while, but I always fizzled. I don’t even know how far I got. I’m sure I never got out of February. I’m fairly sure I never made it out of January. One of them was actually really great: it was filled with quotations and passages from C.S. Lewis, but even the creator of Narnia couldn’t hold my attention for more than a few weeks. Most of the time, the flavour of the commentaries had a decidedly “evangelical” taste to them, and I found myself disagreeing with what was being said or how the Bible was being interpreted. I was especially troubled by the ones that seemed to have all the pat answers and I tended to drop off even earlier than normal on those years. In any case, the book ended up on my bedside table, and I’d just feel bad when I’d see it there, and eventually it’d get knocked behind the table and forgotten until the next Christmas, when the next year’s edition was unwrapped Christmas morning and the cycle began again.
This pattern went on for so many years I can’t even tell you. I think my Mom knew I wasn’t reading the damn things, because I think I’d probably make comments like, “Hey, I read this really great story in that daily devotional book….” or “I’m really enjoying that daily devotional book you got me…” or stuff like that if I was. But I never did. I just moved away from it. One year, she got me one that didn’t actually have a year attached to it. It could be used over and over again, and that was the last one she got me. I think she knew that the game was up. I still have that non-specific devotional kicking around somewhere, and sometimes over the holidays I think about working through it, but still haven’t. There’s a part of me that craves the structure, but a greater part of me that couldn’t be bothered with it, I guess.
Why am I telling you all about my failures as an amateur bible scholar? I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe if it wasn’t for the whole year. Maybe if it was just for advent, for just for lent, or whatever I could commit to that. I could commit to a shorter term thing, something that has a defined beginning and end. Maybe if I was doing it with someone else, like a weirdo religious book club or something, I’d have that accountability I’d feel like I’d need to uphold. But the thing is, I don’t think I like the sound of that either, because it sounds like it would lend itself to “sharing feelings” and stuff which makes my skin crawl. Don’t get me wrong, friend. I’m happy to “share” my “feelings” when the time is right, and in fact once I get started I tend to bleed a bit too much for my own liking, but I can’t do it on a schedule. The conditions have to be right.
So there it is. The beginning of advent. The beginning of another liturgical year, the beginning of another great adventure, as it were. Where will it lead? What’s gonna happen? Changes abound. We’ll all experience various hurts and hopes, we’ll all have dreams dashed and dreams fulfilled. Whatever happens, it won’t be on any discernible or predictable schedule. Life hasn’t worked that way so far, and I doubt it’s going to change now. Let’s check back in a year’s time and we’ll see, okay? #onward