Advent is a time of joyful anticipation, a space to slow down, prepare, go within and examine our hearts and souls, finding a home in our hearts for the spirit of the season; for many of us, for the love of a Savior, a new King. In the midst of holiday hustle and bustle, shopping, decorating, baking, parties, it can be hard to consider Advent being a slowing down time. I used to get caught up in all the chaos until I started focusing on the Advent aspect of this time of year. Eventually, I learned to plan and organize so that I can slow down during Advent. My trick? I take the week off after Thanksgiving, do my shopping (mostly online), write out my cards, do my holiday decorating and spend time preparing my inner life while the outer life around me buzzes with Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays, extended shopping hours, sweater sales and people frantically trying to find the perfect toy. That week allows me to get things done and frees up my time for the rest of the season so I can be more thoughtful, less hurried, more prepared. I remove myself from all the holiday chaos, intentionally, purposefully, planfully.
And that was the plan this year. I took the week off – and promptly became very ill the day after Thanksgiving. I was sick with fever, sweat, chills, nausea – oh, so sick! I lost 14.5 lbs in 4 days. I did manage to get the online shopping done toward the and of the week, but the cards didn’t get mailed, the decorating didn’t get done and three weeks later, I’m still recovering, with a lingering cough and an uncertain tummy.
Life happens and we have to adapt and adjust our plans accordingly, trusting that everything will turn out the way that it’s supposed to. I think of a young girl betrothed to be married, making her plans to become a wife. But all the plans change when her entire world is tossed upside down by the appearance of an angel with a remarkable, fantastical story. I think of a carpenter, betrothed to a girl who we understand to be faith-filled, good and virtuous. Then plans change when he is told that this good girl is pregnant—and not by him, which, according to the laws of the day, could result in her being stoned as punishment. Instead of having her stoned for her betrayal, he decides to quietly divorce her. But plans change again (another angel!) and he takes her as his wife. The lives that they had planned together took a wild, unexpected, unplanned detour. Yet with deep faith they trusted that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to turn out in some unknown way.
Faith is not rigid, unyielding. Faith requires flexibility, an adaptive spirit, the ability to go with the flow. Faith requires accepting the possibility of change, that things may not go the way we’d planned. We can’t stay attached to the plans when circumstances change; rigid attachment creates misery and unhappiness. We have to release our expectations and be flexible to whatever comes up.
Although I didn’t accomplish all I wanted to during my vacation week, I did slow down during Advent nonetheless, editing my plans to suit my changed circumstances, giving up a little in order to gain the peace and calm that nourishes me at Advent. Trusting with deep faith that everything would turn out the way it is supposed to turn out.
I wish you and yours the deep, abiding peace, love and happy joy of the season!