Today I'm thankful to be setting out on a journey, one that will take 40 days and lead to us to the Nativity of Christ. In the Orthodox Church, we begin our advent season today, November 15th. Everywhere we go we're inundated with advertising, busyness, food, stuff, and then more food and more stuff. We're told that joy and peace can be bought with credit and that happiness comes in pretty packages. Meanwhile, the Church quietly calls us away from these distractions and toward Christ. It is a season of preparation, and yes, we will buy some stuff, we'll continue to eat, and we'll inevitably be busier than we'd like. But we will also intentionally turn ourselves away from gluttony through eating simpler meals, fewer treats, less mindless eating. We will try to "unplug" more often so we can be more connected to one another. We will actively seek to remember that it's more blessed to give than to receive by taking part in various giving projects as a family, of trying to be more aware of others needs than our desires. We will focus on the meaning of this time by reading together from the Old Testament, reading the old, old story that started in Eden and led to the manger. We will hang up a corresponding ornament on our Jesse Tree each evening as we learn about those who came before and make up the lineage of our Saviour. We will move Mary along on our starparth, slowly filling the sky with stars as she nears the cave.
Last night we sat together, in the glow of candle light, and talked about what we would do if we learned that in 40 days we'd be visited by a King. How would our lives change as we prepared for his coming? If he were to visit our home, if he were to stay with us, wouldn't we declutter and clean and decorate and save the best for when he arrived? And wouldn't he want to see that in all our preparations, we didn't forget the least of these, his very brethren, but shared with them from our abundance? And wouldn't we want to practice showing love to each other, because we know that is what pleases Him best?
A King is coming, and so we make ready. We will attempt to prepare our hearts as well as our home. And when He comes? We will feast and celebrate! But now is the time for preparation, and I'm grateful for that. When Christmas morning comes, and the gifts have been opened, we'll just be getting started. (We keep the 12 days of Christmas, after all!) I'm thankful to be setting out on this journey today, one that leads to the Prince of Peace!
Read how other families keep the season of advent here.