My husband is a church nerd. He truly enjoys church services, Scripture readings, and observing traditional feasts and seasons. Although he’s fine putting up the Christmas tree early in December and likes listening to Christmas music throughout the month, he still makes a distinction:
Until December 25, we are not in the Christmas season. We’re in Advent, the time of waiting and preparing.
Isn’t it great?
I appreciate his enthusiasm. Darren’s uncluttered love of God and church keeps my edges soft; I remember that there’s really something there to hold onto, even if it doesn’t suit my style. And also…well, I laugh at him, because it’s funny.
Last year, he made a concerted effort to pare down our traditions. We used to do Jesse Tree and the Advent Wreath and memorization at the dinner table and attending all special services at church. It was too much. So last year, we lit a candle and listened to a short reading every night. It was much less grand than he liked, but quality beats out quantity.
The readings were very simple, aimed at children. Neither Darren nor I thought it was anything particularly hard-hitting. Just “prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming on Christmas” and “honor God by loving even those who annoy you.”
We were wrong, however. One child objected to the readings about preparing our hearts, saying they were very unsettling references to the reality of death and eternity. Another child broke down in tears over the terrible guilt of not loving annoying people.
We sympathized with the first child, because even with the great hope of resurrection and heaven, eternity is awful — in both its old sense and modern sense. When the second child retreated to bed in tears, Darren followed and read from the Book of Common Prayer about God’s grace and mercy toward us who just can’t do everything right.
We navigate these spiritual surprises as best we can. Advent is a time of repentance, thoughtfulness, and preparation. But we didn’t expect that much from five-minute readings by candlelight.
It reminded me why it’s important to observe ceremonies and rituals, no matter how short or unexciting. I also reflected how grateful I am to have a man whose steady joy in God quietly overflows to his family.
And most of all, both last year and this year, we all remember how much we can’t wait to be done with the solemn season of Advent.
Let’s get to the raucous joy of Christmas already.
Blessed Advent and Merry Christmas from the Jones Family!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka.