A colleague recently posed the question on Facebook whether it was truly possible to preach four sermons about waiting with any sustained creativity and energy. I think it was asked in the context of expressing relief that one Sunday would feature her church's kids putting on a Christmas play in lieu of a sermon. I could relate to that question, because I've asked it myself. Some years, trying to find something new to say about Advent themes can be a challenge, especially since the overall theme of Advent boils down to waiting, preparing, waiting some more, having patience while we wait, hoping and waiting, waiting for peace, joyfully waiting, etc., etc., etc.
My colleague's observation crept back into my consciousness late last week in the midst of a different experience.
It was late afternoon. The sun was already beginning to sink toward the horizon and darkness had begun to settle in. I'd finished my tasks for the day, had set my bag on the bench outside the office, and figured that I'd wander the sanctuary for a time before leaving.
This was one of those days when I was moved to remain silent as I walked. Maybe it was the dissipating light, maybe it was that I just wanted to be quiet after a day of interacting with others. At any rate, I was content to walk, to observe the decorations, to linger on and savor the time of year, to catch glimpses of the snow as I passed by windows.
As I walked, however, there seemed to be some other reason for my remaining silent. I still can't tell you what it was, but I have a better handle on it now than I did in the moment. I wandered, I lingered and savored, I reflected. I reflected on how the season has been going and how it always seems to pass so quickly. I reflected on how things are going around the church; how there seems to be an uptick in health issues, how various ministries are going. I reflected on Coffeewife's impending graduation in August and how that will give the family a little more breathing room in numerous ways. I reflected on Christmas shopping. I reflected on what I had to do the rest of the week and the rest of the season. I reflected on how relationships with church members had changed and deepened; the benefit of being around for six years.
Still, even in all that reflecting, there was something else. It wasn't exactly some sort of nagging feeling, it wasn't exactly a feeling that something has been left unfinished. The best way that I can describe it now is that it felt like I was waiting for something. I think I still am, but that afternoon I was especially aware of it. And it was a very present feeling, not an emptiness or something that I was trying to force. Rather, it was something both inside and outside myself, a gentle tension that made me take notice.
I eventually stopped by the pulpit and just watched, listened, and waited some more. I guess that I was hoping that whatever I was waiting for would make itself known. I sat there for at least ten minutes, wondering what exactly was stirring within or around me. It was as if I was hoping that something would burst forth from the silence, from the darkness, and reveal itself.
The light continued to fade, and I realized that I needed to get home. Whatever it was, whatever it is, I'm still waiting for it.
~My chosen text was the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), but rather than read the text Coffeewife and I arranged and performed "Mary's Song" by Sara Kay:
Mary's song is a...song. So I thought it'd help people "hear" it better actually sung.
~Since the theme of the third Advent candle is joy, I went with that. First off, I addressed the burning question that everyone was surely asking about why this candle is pink, explaining that it was a break in the middle of an otherwise solemn season. It's actually a tradition that originated with Lent, when purple candles would be lit each Sunday to mark the season's passing, save for a pink candle lit on the third Sunday to recognize that the joy of the resurrection was also a part of that observance. Since Advent was (and in many places still is) approached as a "mini-Lent," the practice of observing joy as well as penance carried over as well. The more you know...
~Our Blue Christmas service was supposed to be held on Sunday evening. This is a service acknowledging that the holidays are not a universally joyful time for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, we started getting hit with a combination of rain and snow that blanketed the roads with a slushy, icy mess, so we didn't risk it. It's a shame to have to let a unique service like that go for a year, but it was necessary.