The sun dropped below the lowest mountain peak, serving as a lovely backdrop to my daughter’s soccer practice. Within minutes, her coach blew the final whistle of the evening, signaling it was time to stop scrimmaging and move to sprints. I glanced at my watch: 5:04 pm. The sun had already set, and the day appeared finished.
I typically welcome the shorter days that accompany the season of Advent. Less daylight should theoretically translate to fewer distractions and more snuggling on the couch, under fleece blankets with warm cups in hand. In the name of intentionality, we cut back on the kids’ activities. What was once the “Fall of Yes” is morphing into the winter of “only if it really means a lot to you.”
The pandemic taught us so much. We realigned our values, spent countless hours of family time (the true quality of which is not yet determined), and expressed gratitude for the blessings that were always right under our noses.
Today, gratitude struggles to be the priority, as a profound sense of urgency, which transects all aspects of our lives, takes center stage. I found this urgency in our home, while we doubled down on academic lessons lost during virtual school. Our parish discussed the vital importance of rebuilding now that we are returning from this period of exile. As a nurse practitioner, I cannot make it through a day without headlines alarming everyone that a significant proportion of the workforce has left our profession in the wake of the pandemic.
My breath quickened as Advent approached this year, convinced I would, once again, fall well short of all personal goals to prepare my heart to welcome the Christ child. A panacea of urgency surrounding me, and I scrambled to reign in any sense of peace.
“Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light.”
—Collect for the First Sunday of Advent, BCP p. 211
Despite the changing seasons, beckoning us all away from the hustle of daily life, Advent may not call us solely into a reflective, peaceful place. While Christ promises a “peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), a significant call to each of us involves the challenging, less calming work of casting away darkness.
Getting rid of the overwhelm accompanying Christmas preparations might not simultaneously take away the sense of urgency that has fallen over society. Is this the time to dig deeper and work hard to rebuild or is this a season of reflection for our next steps forward?
I love spending time around youth and young adults. They are just on the cusp of their own amazing story, and it is such a privilege to watch it unfold. As I eaves-drop from the front seat of our carpool, and from the front of my classroom, the sense of urgency from our youth and youth adults is palpable. Their world may appear to be falling apart at the seams, and yet so often, they maintain the drive, determination, and passion to respond to that urgency with their spiritual gifts to right the world.
I took the lead from our young people and was motivated to use this Advent season to peacefully respond to the urgency around me. For our household, the challenge was to refocus our energy on the areas of greatest need. We determined the need was not the greatest for our individual family, but urgency seemed very strong in our community. Working from the foundation laid during the pandemic, we grappled with how God was calling each of us to respond.
The past two years were exceedingly challenging inside our own hearts, outside our front doors, and across the globe. It’s my prayer that, in my own life, this Advent might be used to call forward the light of Christ, shining in our hearts, and reflect that love back out into the world.
“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.”