When you walk into our house, the first room immediately off to the right is our dining room. When we sat down to look at layouts and to plan to have our house built, the woman we were working with was slightly surprised that we wanted one; apparently, dining rooms are more rare in newer houses. It reflects another shift in the culture where more families are realizing that they just don't have many meals that necessitate such a room, so many opt not to set aside such a space. Instead, more and more families have more informal spaces off of the kitchen where most meals are shared. And we're actually no different. We've had two meals in that room: this Thanksgiving, and last Thanksgiving. Otherwise, that room doesn't get a lot of use. But Coffeewife had been given her grandmother's dining room set, and we needed someplace to put it, so we have a dining room.
Regardless of how often it's used for its stated purpose, it's a pretty nice room. The furniture is in great shape. It has a nice big window with a view of the neighborhood. Around this time of year, we put up some decorations: an Advent wreath sits on the table, and a nativity scene sits on the sideboard. Coffeeson has been enjoying this room more and more. It's where he waits and watches for Coffeegrandma, he loves playing with the nativity characters, and sometimes he just likes to sit in one of the chairs. And he loves the moon: at night, if it's visible, he likes to just sit on the dining room floor by the window and watch it and point to it.
Lately, I've been spending more time in our dining room as well. In the early morning before the rest of the house is awake, I'll sit at the table with a cup of coffee just looking out the window, enjoying some quiet moments before it's time for Phineas and Ferb. Even though I'm not having a meal there, I'm using this room for its purpose: slowing down and just sitting for a while. Hosting a meal in a dining room implies too much time and effort and coordination and intentionality, and we're in a hurry. But the dining room is quiet and slower, while all the busyness and noise takes place in our morning room where most meals are actually consumed. So I like to think that I'm tapping in to the spirit of our dining room, and its invitation to just sit and exist and enjoy.
Yesterday morning, I caught myself thinking that once I get through the next week or so of church activities, I'll have more time to sit and enjoy this Advent season a little more. The logic is silly, and I should know better. This season is to be enjoyed in the midst of everything else, instead of spent hoping for some quiet moment that may never come. I sit in the dining room or I wander the sanctuary or I watch the snow out my office window knowing that I can't stay there forever; knowing that I have other responsibilities. But as long as I carry the peace of those spaces with me, integrating them with the rest of my life, then I won't have to wish away the days while missing this present moment.
~How does one find something new or different to say about John the Baptist every year? He was an outside-the-norm preacher calling people to repentance and helping pave the way for the beginning of Jesus' ministry, and he called out the people in places of comfort and authority. How many different ways can you say that? Well, I went ahead and gave it a shot: I pulled from Walter Brueggemann's thesis that a prophet's main task is to alert people to the crisis of their vocation as God's alternative people becoming domesticated, as well as Shane Claiborne's suggestion that people went to the wilderness to hear John in order to get away from the life that the Empire had foisted upon them. But I said it in less heady terms: John is an untamed voice preparing us to meet an untamed God, who is far different from the domesticated gods of consumerism, politics and sentimental religion.
~While wandering around the sanctuary this week, the thought popped into my head that maybe we could start using blue as the color of Advent instead of purple. I used to be against this for no real reason other than tradition (yes, I have my moments, too). But then I started to consider that blue might simply look better, and since I've been thinking more and more that Advent doesn't need to have the same solemnity as Lent, changing to blue started to make more and more sense to me. The purple paraments have a crown of thorns and three nails on them, which seems out of place for Advent besides (blah blah blah theological foreshadowing, shut up). However, when I looked up the company that had produced our other paraments, I found that it doesn't exist any more. I have at least a year to think about it, run it by other people, and find a company that does custom parament work. I wonder if anyone would care if we just started using blue next year. I doubt it'd be that big a deal. Then again, I've thought that before...
~Our opening hymn yesterday was "O Come O Come Emmanuel." Isn't it interesting that most people consider this a Christmas carol and not an Advent hymn? It all has to do with popularity and familiarity, of course. It's one of my favorites besides.