As if any of us needed to be reminded of how quickly a year can fly by, it is now roughly four and a half days until the beginning of Advent.  And though that realization does initially make me wince a little bit, I’m finding that I am also excited.

Growing up, I always loved the season of Advent:  the colors, the mystery, the swelling sense of expectation.  I loved lighting the candles on the Advent wreath each Sunday, watching the tiny flames wriggle out a dance that seemed to mirror my own anticipation.  Even as a young child, I knew something big was coming – something that went beyond the presents under our tree – and that knowledge was thrilling.

Now I am thirty-two and a minister.  Consequently, I’m one of the folks who plans out the season’s events weeks and months in advance, the one with intimate knowledge of every little detail from the brand of oil inside the Advent candles to the complaints about which carols should be sung when (and by whom).  As ministers, in some ways my colleagues and I are like the Wizard of Oz, directing from behind the curtain with high hopes that the focus of the festivities will never be on us.

This, of course, changes things to a certain extent.  Some of the anticipation is lessened when you know precisely what is going to happen next.  Sometimes that sense of expectation can get watered down and Advent can become more work than wonder.

So this week, in preparation for both the first Sunday of Advent and a Divine Details essay for Fidelia’s Sisters, I am spending some time thinking about where we clergy-folk find the Divine in the details of this season.  What can we do (what do you do?) to keep our eyes open to the holy while we arrange a hundred or so poinsettias in the Sanctuary or edit the bulletin for the eighth time?  How can we have hearts awash with wonder while we manage a calendar stuffed with parties, worship services, potlucks, service projects and festivals?  Friends, when do you feel most full of anticipation during this busy, busy time?

I’ll be reflecting on these questions during the lull of Thanksgiving.  If you come up with anything you’d like to share, please let me know!


Autumn Wonder

The day I have impatiently waited for has finally arrived:  It is now consistently autumn here in the Kansas City metro area.  Daily highs are in the low sixties and upper fifties…the trees are slowly changing from green to gold to amber/orange and on to brown…the townie-geese are receiving their annual out-of-town visitors, many of whom will make this their residence throughout the chill of winter…  Yes, it is Autumn.  Thanks be to God!

Autumn has always been my favorite season.  Much of it has to do with the trees – the way they put on such extravagant dress for a few brief weeks before baring it all in the name of winter.  There are so many other things that I love about the fall – and in the name of gratitude and joy-centered living, I think this is the time to list them:

In the midst of Autumn, I love:

  • the crisp, clear quality of the air.  It is as though one can see farther and with more precision during the months of October and November.
  • pumpkins:  small, big, round, misshapen, knotted, orange, white, yellowish-green, squatty…I love them all!
  • autumn leaves, especially those from the many varieties of maple tree.  The bright burnished reds are my favorite.
  • autumn clothing:  sweaters and jeans, boots and jackets, leather and wool…all are snuggly and wonderful.  I’m also a fan of tweeds.
  • autumn colors, filled with brightness…as though the world is steeling itself for sharp austere winter with wild displays of extravagance and warmth!
  • autumn flavors:  buttery squash, nuts, pumpkin, cinnamon, chocolate, mocha, spiced apple (especially the juicy honeycrisp!)
  • soups.  All of them.
  • chili.  Any variety will do, though I particularly love the white chicken chilis of the world.
  • the way that leaves leap from the trees and swirl down towards the earth – flurries of foliage covering everything in their path.
  • the way that our dog, Shelby, seems to gain energy and puppy-ness in the fall.  She scampers and prances through the leaves, picks up the scent of squirrels and is transformed into a tracker, chases the cats with renewed vigor…
  • squirrels throwing acorns, hiding acorns, taunting the dog, peppering our windows and cars with a barrage of oaken projectiles…
  • college football, particularly glorious purple and white TCU football!  Go Frogs!
  • crisp sunny days followed by chilly nights.
  • concentrated celebrations:  Halloween, Thanksgiving and Advent all packed into a tight succession of festival joy.
  • children living out their fantasies, transformed into ninjas and heroes, princesses and rock stars, fairies and animals galore.
  • warm beverages… particularly coffee, but also cocoa, tea, hot cider, hot spiced wine – all transforming the night’s chill into something magical.

My goal this autumn is to be present to the wonder of the season.  Many an autumn-past has slipped by without my full attention, and I have suffered for it.  Many a Fall I have been so engrossed in worry or work or worthless pursuits that I have missed out on the joy that attends this season.  So, this year, I will notice.  I will celebrate Autumn in all of her fullness, all of her transformative glory.

This year I will let my eyes see the presence of God in the season, and I will be grateful.