I didn’t grow up with Advent

I didn’t grow up with Advent. I may have mentioned this here before. My first December in England, nine years ago, I didn’t know what it was. My introduction came from my little cousin (who lives up north – and isn’t so little anymore!) showing me his Advent calendar.

I’m guessing it was either left behind as a Catholic relic by the Protestant community I grew up in or it’s just one of those European traditions that didn’t translate to the Caribbean in great strength.

In the last decade, I have fallen for Advent. I love the excitement it builds towards the big day. Talitha and Ophelia have two Advent calendars this year. One is a traditional calendar beautifully illustrated by Emma Sutton (it’s pictured above). I’ve somehow wound up also giving her a chocolate after she opens a door, though. Call me weak.

The other is a string of envelopes. Each contains a printout from Feels like Home with Bible verses, songs and readings to take us through Advent. An ornament accompanies each one, which Talitha colours and sticks on her her 2D “Jesse Tree”, mounted on the playroom wall.

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As we span the Bible, creation to Christmas, and as I read and ponder the Christmas story again for myself, I’m struck by the conflicted emotions bound up in Advent. There is joy and expectation but struggle and grief are here too. Mary is warned that her soul will be pierced, mass killings surround Jesus’ birth, the shadow of the cross looms across our Christmas tree.

For some reason, this resonates with me more deeply this year. Perhaps it’s because I know of and know people for whom this is, on various levels, an unhappy time of year. Perhaps it’s because, as a parent I’m keenly aware of all we desperately want to make this day for our families and all that that reflects about what we desperately want from life.

Advent, this thing I didn’t grow up with, is calling me to come again and meet with the God who isn’t distant from any of this – door by door, one day at a time.