We awoke this past Saturday morning—the day before first day of Advent—to a quiet city blanketed in snow.
The forecast had predicted a few flurries on this day for over a week. However, here in Seattle, a pileup of snow is hard to come by. When they said a few flurries, I took them literally, expecting to wake up on Saturday morning to already-melting tiny patches of ice.
Despite my cynicism, on Saturday morning I opened the curtains slowly, filled with a tiny glimmer of hope leftover from a Midwestern childhood, in which the forecast of overnight flurries could mean a day (or two, or five) off from school. Nothing seemed better than a snow day then. But before we knew if the snow would come, we had to wait through the darkness.
The anticipation was so palpable I can still close my eyes return and those moments today. Once morning came, I would creep out of bed and head straight for the nearest window, whispering prayers of petition along the way. At the slightest turning of the blinds, my heart would fill with joy or sink with sadness as the window revealed either a wintry scene or the same gray day it displayed the day before.
This past Saturday morning I found myself looking out the window in anticipation once more and was surprised to discover the ground instead covered in white (with a few dry patches remaining—we’re talking about Seattle, here). With the season of Advent upon us, this reminder of such feelings of anticipation seemed timely—the perfect way to usher in a season that invites us to engage the tension between waiting and hope.
On Sunday morning—the first day of Advent—Kyle, Sam, and I headed to the nearby forest, where patches of snow still remained, in order to collect fallen greenery to decorate our mantle. The pine branches and fern leaves we gathered along the trails would join our beeswax Advent candles as symbols of preparation and anticipation—two themes of the Advent season.
I’d imagined this moment ever since I began taking my daily walks in the forest, wooed by the symbolism of pine branches flourishing in the dead of winter and flickering Advent candles made from summer’s bounty, reminding us that Advent is a season of keeping vigil and holding on to hope.
It’s easy to want to coast right on through these seasons of tension and straight on to the good news of Christmas and Easter. But the strain of Advent and Holy Week are gifts in their own way, invitations to intentionally enter into the darkness long enough to discover where new life is taking form. And yet while we courageously engage the tension, we wait with hearts filled with hope and souls filled with anticipation, making preparations for the coming season of celebration because we know of the good news that awaits.
Until the season to celebrate that good news comes—amidst all the oh-so-tempting hustle and bustle of Christmas celebration that already surrounds me—I want to channel my longing into intentional preparation so that when the time arrives I can fully embrace the joys that Christmas brings.
My hope is that this Advent, the scene above on my mantle will—like a spiritual practice—call me to return to the season at hand, reminding me to embrace the strain and stay with the tension, so that I might not miss the unique gifts that keeping vigil and waiting with anticipation can bring.
What practices help you to engage both the tension and anticipation of the Advent season? Share your response to the question or the post in the comments.