Advent 2020

This is now the second Sunday in Advent, 2020. Yesterday Nora asked why the Advent calendar and Advent Season with four candles to light are not the same. A thoughtful question for a 6 year old. It always helps to think about where we are with calendars and seasons. This year is very different. Many phrases used during this season contain the words “together. gathering.” This year, the Covid 19 pandemic has shifted many all over the world to a different consideration of the words. But the season and its meaning stays. The story is both old and new. We wait this year in different circumstances, but the reason changes only in its greater need. For Joe and me, our greater age and lesser health means I took this photo in the foyer of our church 2 years ago. I have not been present there at a worship service in over 9 months. I miss this sanctuary. I miss our friends. Worship on Sundays has meant online viewing. But there is no lack of evidence of God’s presence and sufficiency for and with us. Living with Ben and Kristen and Nora and Oliver means we also always have family around us. The rest of our family keeps close, helps us, and encourages. We are loved.


THE HOUSE LIGHTS GO OFF and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised the baton. 

In the silence of a midwinter dusk there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. 

You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. 

The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment. 

The Salvation Army Santa Claus clangs his bell. The sidewalks are so crowded you can hardly move. Exhaust fumes are the chief fragrance in the air, and everybody is as bundled up against any sense of what all the fuss is really about as they are bundled up against the windchill factor. 

But if you concentrate just for an instant, far off in the deeps of yourself somewhere you can feel the beating of your heart. For all its madness and lostness, not to mention your own, you can hear the world itself holding its breath.  

-Originally published in Whistling in the Dark, Frederick Buechner

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