A hat finished with grosgrain ribbon, nylon gloves and ruffled socks, all in white. Matching handmade dresses, Mary Janes, and little pocketbooks. What does that add up to?
That was my childhood church-going on Sundays along Louisiana bayous and Gulf Coast Texas.
Here is an old photo of me and my sister in front of our brick home on an Easter Sunday in matching dresses my Mama made. Look at our little necklaces. We knew how to mark a Sunday!
The Baptist churches I attended with my family were good at teaching us about Jesus in the manger, welcoming little children with open arms, riding into town on a donkey and dying on the bloody cross. I was steeped in the tender love and life sacrifice of Jesus along with the Holiness of God the Almighty. Southern Baptists might get a bad rap for their no dancing, no drinking rules, but as a little girl, I knew only that God my Father loved me deeply and expected my little light to shine.
I did not grow up tasting communion very often or worshipping in the rhythm of the liturgical seasons, but when I started dating Mike, we gathered the best of the Baptist and Episcopal church traditions into our worship. I was in my twenties before I started celebrating seasons like Advent, Ash Wednesday and Lent. These sacraments were rich layers that flowered in my deep Bible upbringing.
I realize when I say, "Advent is Coming!" that I am really saying, "Coming is Coming!". Have you ever noticed that God speaks that way, in doubles? He tells Moses, "I Am who I Am".
Merriam-Webster says advent is "a coming or arrival of a notable person or event". Advent with a capital "A" is the coming of Christ the Messiah. In the Christian church calendar, Advent is actually two times: the 40 days leading up to the birth of baby Jesus in a manger underneath a star and the time leading up to His coming again in the clouds.
That is technically what Advent is, but this coming-around-the-bend is a season of mystery and wonder and timelessness too. It is waiting, anticipation and getting ready with a hearty dash of longing and hope.
We wait for all sorts of things and get ready while we wait; a changing season, a brewing storm, grandma's visit, that first snowflake, our wedding day and the birth of a baby.
I can remember waiting for the birth of each of our whippersnappers. It was a time of excitement for meeting someone we already loved deeply and dearly. We couldn't wait for the unknown day to arrive and yet we needed every day to get ready. Time got weird. The days alternated between standing stock still and shooting past like a rocket. This kind of expectant waiting is hard work. Every ligament told me so as I fell into bed each night.
There was a tinge of fear too, for the labor, but also for the change that was on it's way. For the unknown. We looked ahead, longing to meet our brand new Conlin baby and at the same instant, we glanced back saying goodbye to our life on the edge of epiphany. We sensed we'd be forever changed by the arrival of our child and we were right every single time.
Waiting for a new baby, we were living in in-between times, a quality shared with celebrating Advent. Advent holds time that grows to fullness. It is time that blooms like a flower. It is what Scripture calls time that is ripe and sweet. That is kairos, God's time.
In the heart and spirit we are less restricted by time. We are given glimpses of kairos in our own living, moments that break free of time and simply are. It is fascinating that music is so bound up with time and yet some of the greatest moments of music are the silences between notes.
We all have moments of kairos, though we seldom recognize them till afterwards. One such glimpse that I remember with particular delight came after a long and very difficult labour when my doctor and friend dropped a small wet creature between my breasts, saying, "Here's your son, Madeleine."
And I heard the angles sing.
Madeleine L'Engle, Glimpses of Grace
This is the first of my Advent posts. Since my blog is not yet a year old, this will be the first Advent season I am writing to you. I am excited to share the thoughtfulness, creativity and celebration of this sacred season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have found observing Advent has deepened all the ways I worship during Christmastime.
Advent is when we celebrate God opening heaven's windows. He breaks through our galaxy and reaches down into our big, blue marble and takes on skin. There will be hope, joy, love, shepherds, magi, babies, stars and angels. Leave room for awe and mystery and glory and dirt!
Advent officially starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Remember that Thanksgiving sets the table for what comes next. Our grateful hearts are preparation for the gifts and mysteries of Advent that follow and lead all the way to the Bethlehem manger.
So get ready to get ready.
You can read more about kairos at white space is kairos.