I love that the church calendar is designed with seasons like Lent and Advent, to give us long periods of time to remember why we celebrate and prepare our hearts. More than once I have experienced a feeling of surprise and embarrassment while sitting in church on Christmas Eve or Easter Sunday -- It's here? It's time for this? I'm not ready! I need more time!
Advent is designed to help me avoid that feeling, thank goodness! Yesterday marked the beginning of four weeks set aside to help us prepare for Christmas -- not the decorating, baking, gift-buying part of Christmas, but for the spiritual part of Christmas. And we need, or rather I need, every bit of that four weeks to get myself prepared.
But how do you prepare for wonder? How do you prepare yourself for something so illogical, so unreasonable? God is, as St. Anselm of Canterbury said, that greater than which cannot be thought. If we stretch our minds to the farthest edges of its capacity, we still have not even begun to consider God. And God incarnate, God in the flesh? That is even more incomprehensible!
But maybe it's okay for us to be confused and blown away by Christmas. Maybe our amazement at the impossible really gets at the purpose of Advent. Madeline L'Engle's poem, "After Annunciation," captures this idea:
This is the irrational season
When love blooms bright and wild.
Had Mary been filled with reason
There'd have been no room for the child.
Thank goodness for the "irrational season." Thank goodness we don't have to be able to fully explain and understand the incarnation in order to be blown away by it. Thank goodness for wonder.
Sidenote: If you enjoy poetry, or Advent, or both, you should check out this blog: Advent in Poetry. Charlie Lowell of the band Jars of Clay will be posting a daily poem throughout the Advent season. He says this about his project:
"My hope for this blog is that it might be a simple way to reflect on this season of Advent- that is, the days of waiting, anticipating Christmas. More specifically- the Coming of Jesus, Emmanuel, God-Finally-With-Us. I always have this funny internal struggle with the month of December; I want (and need) to slow down and reflect, but there's just so much to do (and buy)! It ends up being the busiest month of the year, much to my dismay. Certainly the intent of Advent has been diluted over the years. I've found poetry to be a great "tool" in slowing down and looking at things a little differently. Sort of like a prayer, sort of like a song, it really can open up windows for us, if we let it. That's what I hope can happen here."
Check it out!