....I keep reminding myself, because it seems like such good news.
This means that Advent services start next week, not this week. I have a few more days to iron out the details in our theme, to find songs prayers that match, and to make sure everyone knows their role. It also means that I have a few more days to get my Sunday Advent schedule organized: I'm preaching on the first and third Sundays in Advent, and I have time to make preaching folders and study ahead and fill those folders with ideas. Theoretically, at least.
It means that I have a whole week to find that Advent Wreath that I bought a few years ago, but never put up on the dining room table, because Advent sneaks up on me right after Thanksgiving, and I'm not ready.
Perhaps this year we'll really observe a regular advent discipline in our home, like I've always wanted to. Perhaps every night I'll light a candle and say a prayer during advent, the way I've always wanted to. Perhaps every night I'll open a window on an Advent Calendar, and everything will go According to Plan. Instead, our Advent observance has always been sort of haphazard and random, mixed in with some craft-making and shopping and (truth be told) Very Little Baking.
I am all for meaningful Advent traditions and rituals. But Advent (and Christmas) always sort of sneaks up on me, even though I know it's out there, and I'm waiting for it, and anticipating it with both joy and fear, fear and joy.
I have this recurring dream that it's Christmas eve, and the tree is lit up and the house is arranged, and the dinner is ready (by some miracle), but I am not ready. I have not bought some of my presents yet, and I have run out of time. All of the stores are closed, and the feast has begun, and I am empty-handed. I wake up (sort of) relieved, and with a new sense of urgency. How many days left? I wonder.
Advent themes are repentance and hope, waiting and getting ready. The one word theme of Advent is "Come." "Come Lord Jesus," and we are getting ready, we think. We're decking the halls and making the feast and wrapping the presents (although some of us are better at these preparations than others). Others of us are repenting all the time, every time we forget to light an Advent Candle, or make some small (or large) mistake, or take a wrong turn.
So it's a week before Advent, and maybe I'll really find that Advent Wreath this year, and I hope I do. But the One we are waiting for, the One who is coming doesn't depend on my candle-lighting or my prayers. He's coming for those who can't light the candle, who are too weak to pray. He's coming for all of the ones who have lost their way, who have fallen and can't get up, who have died and need to be raised to new life.
He is coming to save us.
Whether I light the candle or not.
And he's here.