Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus. The first Sunday of Advent (also known as Advent Sunday) is the fourth Sunday before Christmas – today. It is the point we can start counting down to Christmas. It is a day of hope.
This past week, my life was filled with expectation and preparation for my favorite non-religious holiday – Thanksgiving! I previewed Thanksgiving dinner a few days early because I couldn't wait any longer. I smoked a couple turkey legs, mashed some potatoes, steamed green beans, made my favorite sage dressing and watched Sunday Night Football (sorry, Giants fans). It held me over somewhat until our family finally sat down to count our blessings and enjoy the official Thanksgiving dinner (and I gorged on football).
It is hard to jump the gun on Christmas – no matter what you do. Midnight Mass and Santa's arrival always come at the conclusion of Advent, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. They can’t be hurried. But this can be a good thing, because in the meantime, there are cards to write, wreaths to prepare, candles to light, trees to decorate, carols to sing, gifts to wrap and never enough time.
I found a way to save a little time – I now do most of my Christmas shopping on the internet, and for the past few years much of it has taken place through Gifts for Life. But there is no way to get around the deadline of December 5th (day before St. Nicholas Day), if I want my recipients get their cards in time. (Well, actually there is – thank goodness for e-cards!)
This year as I shop, I am going to remember a most remarkable farmer and entrepreneur, Maria, who I met a couple of weeks ago on an Episcopal Relief & Development study tour. With a little training from CEPAD (one of our church partners in Nicaragua) and a micro business loan, her hard work is paying off. Her bountiful farm of chickens and eggs, pigs and beans, fruit trees and more is full of expectant waiting, preparation and hope – hope for a better life for her family.
It is a story of Advent that I will carry with me to Christmas and beyond.
Please visit our Advent web page for ways to celebrate the season, including videos, stories, a calendar, stories and a Children’s Chapel curriculum.
Brian Sellers-Petersen is Director of Church Engagement at Episcopal Relief & Development.