Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Two Advents

In 1948 Dick and Mac shut down their successful restaurant to make changes. Upon re-opening three months later, the hungry public found that the brothers had whittled their once large menu down to essentially one item: hamburgers. Since then, the restaurant franchise has become a globally recognized brand. The name of the restaurant? McDonald's.

Nowadays this type of drastic simplification is embedded in our daily lives. And food is hardly the only thing that has been turned into an easy-to-understand and uninteresting commodity. Many nuanced traditions have been thinned out as well. Advent is a case-in-point. A time to buy a Gaudily decorated calendar with twenty-five chocolates inside is the extent to which it is widely thought to be about now. As enticing as that might sound, no one could expect such an idea to actually capture and hold a person's imagination. But like many things, scratch the surface and we might discover something that compels us to think about its hidden layers and depths.

Look past the countdown chocolate calendars and you just might find your interest being piqued by the forgotten themes of Advent. This type of curiosity doesn't come from the usual loud and bright-colours (not to mention chocolately) sort of show that jolts you into a frenzy of activity. Its rather quite the opposite. Advent tells us to stop moving, be quiet and breathe deeply. It also says it is okay to wait because there are things worth waiting for. And not only are these things worth waiting and hoping for, but they rightly should be expected; from me, from you, from other people and from God. Even with only this most cursory mention of some of its larger themes it is clear why Advent can't and doesn't comfortably co-exist with the typical North Atlantic lifestyle. It really wouldn't be far off to suggest that Advent is a counter-cultural observance.

With our fifteen month adventure abroad swiftly coming to an end, we have been talking a lot about Advent in that context. It is exciting to countdown how many days until we fly home. We have certain expectations and hopes of what that will mean for us. Returning to Canada will require a transition period and it will probably be at least a bit demanding on us and on our family. Without going into any details, you might be able to see how this could give us a one-off framework with which to discuss and reflect on Advent this year. Our expectations, hopes and uncertainties about returning home fit right in with Advent.

It is important to add that with all this hoping, expecting and just generally looking ahead, we aren't forgetting to be fully present where we are. We can't thank Sonia (and Joel) enough for reminding us of this sage advice.

Alright, now you can go have today's Advent chocolate.


Parentals said...

As we light the 2nd candle of our Advent wreath tomorrow.... we will pray for your transition to the new reality that will be yours back in Ontario. As one 'adventure' comes to a close, a new 'adventure' awaits!

Anonymous said...

Hi J and K,
I enjoyed your comments on the Advent, the coming of Christ into this world. Sadly, today, it is not celebrated the way God meant it to be. The Bible sys," Unto us is born this day a Saviour who is Christ the Lord." This calls for celebration, but, unfortunately,instead of worshipping Him, the majority think it is a time for partying and having "fun". Let us worship Him by inviting Him into our hearts
"Happy Christmas to you."
Love from Pappy.

Sonia said...

We are honored that you have listened to our humble advice....for the reality for you both this Christmas season is one of transition and joy. That said, you'll never be where you are *right now* so live it up and enjoy. Once you get back you'll have plenty of time for reflection! Safe travels and hugs to you both, love from Sonia and Joel