This year, for the first time, my family decided to observe advent at home. With nowhere—and I literally mean nowhere—to be for the entire month of December, it seemed like it would be a great way to make the Christmas season more meaningful. My family has chosen to continue social distancing over the holidays, which means this year holds no double-booked events, zero white elephant parties, and no need to squeeze errands into the fringes of the day.
We’re two weeks into advent and really enjoying the plans we’re following*. However, I’ve quickly realized I have a problem with advent. In fact, there have been moments when advent has made me downright resentful. Advent calls us to “slow down” and bask in the wonder of anticipation. When it comes to 2020, I feel like advent may have started six or seven months too late. At this point, being asked to anticipate anything feels futile.
Earlier this week, the daily prompt for reflection was, “What are you anticipating this coming week?” Sitting on my couch in the early moments of the day in a dimly lit room with our Christmas tree nearby, this question filled me with a deep sadness.
Because the answer was nothing.
Nothing was happening this week. Or the next one. Or the week after that. The days will go on just like they have, for the most part, since March. Extended family is 1,000 miles away in two directions. There will be no candlelight Christmas Eve service. Plans have been canceled. Traditions have been postponed.
Under the weight of nothing, I sat and cried for a minute. Then I asked myself, “Why is anticipation so hard right now?”
First of all, there’s something counterproductive about placing your expectations in the temporary. I’d misplaced my source of hope. I’d grown inpatient with all of 2020’s delays, disappointments, and fears. It’s easy to forget that the space between Malachi and Matthew was 400 years.
Sitting there on my couch in the dark, music playing quietly in the background brought my heart back into focus.
God with us.
God’s ever-present Light coming to a broken, gloomy world to say I Am here. I Am here with you right now. I Am here forever.
I’m letting go of advent’s call to anticipation, at least for this year. Instead of the unexciting reality of what’s next, I’m going to concentrate on being here. Here with my son as each day we unwrap another element of the story about a Savior who came to rescue his people in the form of a baby. Here with friends who are hurting and need a shoulder to lean on. Here for neighbors who need some help and are waiting for someone to notice.
Here doesn’t take a step back. It doesn’t wait for tomorrow. It shows up every day in big and small ways. (Let’s be honest, mostly in small ways.) Here is reading one more book before its time for bed. Here is baking cookies and not caring how lopsided the gingerbread men look. Here is remembering who needs to hear your voice long distance today or putting a note in the mail just because. There’s great potential in being here, right now at the end of 2020, but only if you can let go of all the places you might be any other year.