by the Rev. Liv Larson Andrews
Advent is here. For most, however, these weeks of December are not a separate season but are already Christmas. Trees are up. Parties are thrown. Carols are sung. While none of that is bad, it does signal a loss of another thing: the ancient practice of Advent. Thinking about our home and our church sanctuary, lyrics of that old James Taylor song came to me, “Deep greens and blues are the colors I choose.” Deep blue is the color of Advent in Protestant churches, and so it hangs over the ambo and across the altar. I try to drape it over our living room table, too. Thanks, but you can keep your jolly red until the 24th.
It is not only the loss of the beautiful blue fabric I mourn when we start calling all of December “Christmas.” We lose a pattern of keeping time. In preparation for the two great feasts of Christianity, Christmas and Easter, the church keeps a simpler, quieter time. Lent precedes Easter, and Advent leads to Christmas. The feasting is more meaningful, more lovely, when we take time to prepare.
That James Taylor song is both a cowboy ballad and a lullaby, written in ¾ time. Advent is both a lullaby and an alarm bell. Advent is about quiet and stillness, but also full of apocalyptic imagery and readings that call us to wake up (Romans 13, Matthew 24). The voice of John the Baptist is piercing and strong: “Prepare the way of the Lord.” The end is near, which will be a new beginning.
You can waltz in ¾ time as well as fall asleep. Maybe Advent is the beginning of a dance. “Time marches on,” we hear. But the way the church approaches time is more like a waltz than a march. We spin, we sidestep, we bend and rest. Time dances us along.
Let us keep the ancient dance between fast and feast. Let us hang our blues and light our candles, learning to waltz with a God who is both our end and our beginning.
The Rev. Liv Larson Andrews pastors Salem Lutheran Church in Spokane, Washington. She also blogs for Spokane FAVS (Faith & Values).
Photo is from here.