1 : the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting
3 not capitalized : a coming into being or use
I've been thinking about Advent lately. Not just the season itself, but the term. Our family attends a church that doesn't make a big deal of Advent - there's no Advent wreath, no lighting of special candles, few Christmas carols sung. Each year, that kind of makes me sad. Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, I want all Christmas music, all the time. It lifts my spirits, it lightens my heart, it reminds me of what this season is about. And I could use a few reminders...
Sadly, this time of year is extra busy for our family. This is the second year that our daughter A has danced in Nashville Ballet's Nutcracker production. She loves it. She spends hours practicing for mere minutes on the stage. But she gets to dance in TPAC's Jackson Hall, she sees professional dancers up close and personal, she hangs out with other girls who share her passion for dance and she grows in her gift of dance. I've been trying to remember that these are important, things worthy of advent.
I was sharing with J a few nights ago that I've been a little sad lately that I haven't had the time or energy to focus as much on others as I would like during this season. I've been too busy shuttling children to and fro, keeping our family schedule straight and seeking to build rest into our day, our week, our month. I want to be able to focus family time and energy on giving to others - on adopting a family and buying their Christmas gifts, on cooking dinner for a neighbor's birthday, on meeting a need that I hear about because I actually have time to listen. J listened sympathetically and then gently reminded me that I am focusing on others - I'm focusing on my children during this season. (See why I love this guy?)
That conversation soothed my spirit. And it made me think about the fact that advent is not just about coming, but about becoming. Jesus didn't come here and take on human form for us to stay the same. Advent changed him and it should change us. Advent should be a time when we ponder the miracle of God made flesh and ponder how our flesh, our bone, our gifts reflect this God. But we don't always like to ponder this. It's a little scary, isn't it? Because if we actually seek to understand who we are made to be, we might have to leave safety, security and comfort behind. We might actually yearn to become someone who doesn't fear.
I long for that. I long to let go of my fear of what others think. I long to be comfortable and confident spending my advent pouring into my family and children, sowing seeds in their hearts, pruning and growing them into strong women. But all too often I find myself worried about what others must think. We've missed church a few times this month. We've all been exhausted or sick. Once we just needed a day to be home together. So what do I fear?
I fear other families judging our choice to let A dance in The Nutcracker. I fear B & K being envious of the time our family devotes to A's dancing (although we try very hard to make the season special for them as well and they have thus far shown only joy in seeing their sister dance). I fear failing them. I fear they won't remember Advent as anything special. But if I am testing my own heart and listening to who I am becoming this season, I should set fear aside and celebrate not just the arrival of a special season, but my children becoming more of who they are made to be while being mothered by a woman who is seeking to become who she was made to be.
As I write this post, A is finishing up her final performance. She's not feeling well. In fact, she's danced three times in the past two days with a sore throat that hurts so much it has made her cry. But she begged to dance. She didn't want to let her classmates down. She didn't want Nashville Ballet to have to get another dancer to replace her. She wanted, desperately wanted, to use her gift. And I look at her and feel ashamed that I am so hesitant to be who I am called to be. I find excuse after excuse not to write. I have a daughter who will push herself beyond what many 9 year olds could bear to use her gift. So how can I leave my gift to wither and die? What kind of example would that be?
Who are you thinking about this Advent? And perhaps more importantly, who are you becoming this Advent?