Advent came a little later than expected this year.
While the rest of Christendom entered into the early days and weeks of the Advent season, I lagged slightly behind. Thanksgiving came and went, most of it a blur.
In my head, and really, in theory, when I showed up to church the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I knew that it was the first Sunday of Advent. I read the scriptures. I sang the songs. I made a mental note to pull bins out of the garage so we could start decorating the house for Christmas already.
But somehow, in between soccer games (of the World Cup variety as well as the ten-year old competitive league variety), a busy work season, and a postponed trip to Disneyland, I all but forgot about Advent until rain started pouring down from a midnight blue sky on Friday night.
Holiday parties were canceled and soccer games rescheduled. Without much on our plate, our family of four found ourselves free to do and please as we wished. We holed up together, reading books and playing games and finally, pulling all of those bins out of the garage so we could decorate the house for Christmas. The boys and I rolled around the floor, tickling one another and telling jokes. Later, they built a giant fort out of cardboard boxes in their bedroom, as my husband and I danced to a crooning Nat King Cole downstairs in the kitchen.
We didn’t go anywhere. We didn’t buy anything. We didn’t really do anything but stop and pause and be in the present moment. And as luck would have it, that seemed to do the trick.
Advent finally showed up.
It’s the stopping that often gets me, that often gets all of us, I imagine. In no other season are we invited to be a people marked by waiting, as we, the people of God, wait for the one who is to come. But it makes me wonder: in order to be marked as a people who wait, might we also sometimes have to physically enter into the act of waiting?
In her newest release, The First Advent in Palestine, author and liberation theologian Kelley Nikondeha writes, “Advent isn’t the acceptance of status-quo peace, but an incarnation of God’s peace that we live in the world.”
Advent, an incarnation of God’s peace. Advent, a becoming and an assuming. Advent, “a concrete or actual form of a quality or concept.”
Whether we’re speaking of the Christ-child or the concept of a holy harmony that is to come, I do think we have to enter into a longing for peace and its coming in order to understand its fullness—and entering into the fullness of the incarnation often means more than merely entering into the fullness of God’s humanity.
It means entering into a waiting, a stopping, and perhaps a pausing too. It means reaching “across the generations, always pushing us to embody God’s peace in today’s troubled times.” As I learned from Nikondeha, the incarnation “is God’s engaging with the human trauma of a specific place and a specific people,” which is to say, with the Palestinian people.
At one point this weekend, I made a list of kitchen things to make come Sunday afternoon: banana bread, preserved lemons, beet-ginger juice, chicken broth, kombucha.
Part of me laughed at the urban homesteader I’ve accidentally become: yes, I’ll make do with the brown bananas, the giant Ziploc full of frozen vegetable scraps, and the slimy Scoby that has yet to be named. Yes, I’ll blend and boil, sift and squeeze, chop and wait.
Because in the waiting, something happens.
In the waiting, something is birthed.
On Sunday, I saved the preserved lemons for last. I kept calling them “Advent lemons,” perhaps because the aforementioned author extended her audience on social media an invitation to enter an alternative kind of Advent through a little bit of Kosher salt and sunny, yellow lemons.
Just as hope takes time, as she said in a video, “preserving lemons provides a visual reminder of the transformation we are undergoing as we become peacemakers in our world.” Instead, as the lemons sit for four weeks on the kitchen counter (four weeks that also happens to be the length of the Advent season), the physical act of waiting cannot be ignored.
Instead, it is real and present; it is fleshy, right there before us.
I may be a couple of weeks late in starting these Advent lemons, but I’m here now. In the waiting, in the hoping, and in the dreaming of what is to come.
And that, I think, is exactly where I’m supposed to be.