Even in the midst of autumn leaves and pumpkin patches, I can't help but look to December 2 and the start of Advent. In spare moments at my desk, I shuffle through the Hymnal, sneakily turning pages until I reach No. 196.
Come, though long-expected Jesus, born to set thy people free... With my humming, a bleary morning becomes a warm, wild prayer. From our fears and sins release us, let us find our rest in thee...
As a child, Advent was frothy, overflowing with cookies and wreaths. We sang: Advent is the time to wait, not quite time to celebrate. We waited for school to end, waited for Christmas morning, waited to rip open presents. As an adult, I not only cherish the froth, I chase transformation. I sing: Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. I wait to understand, I long to see clearly, I yearn to strike the light.
Give me Advent, wintry waiting that sets hope ablaze in the night's stillness. Intertwine the weight of the world with the weight of my heart. Bless our wait for the coming candlelight in the midst of mud and mire. Grant me more than the holiday rush, the whoosh of mall-hopping, peel back my layers of to-do, to-see, to-bring, and set me free.
Yes, give me Advent and its waiting music that kindles my anticipation. Sure, I pep up when I hear "Jingle Bells" or fa-la-las. But in these yearning days, give me "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence." Give me its minor key, set before me the new snow that I glimpse within its harmonies. Stillness slips between each word, Christ our God to earth descendeth... Within this promise, bleak midwinter shines with the might and melt and mystery of a bobbing star.