I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church. I grew up Pentecostal, which avoided anything resembling “high church.” I never had an Advent calendar or devotional. I didn’t even know what Advent was until I was a sophomore in college. I told my Episcopal professor this sad fact, and she gave me a look of shock, mixed with a tiny bit of judgment.
Since then, I’ve participated in Advent. I’ve done the devotions, attended the services, and even eaten the tasteless chocolate. Now, I get as excited to celebrate Advent as I do Christmas. This season holds so much, the expectancy of Christ, his presence now, and his reign to come. It’s tension and time-travel. It’s amazing.
My fiance Bryce, our friend Scott, and I are starting a new Advent tradition this year. I made an Advent wreath (and a bit of a poor excuse for one) at my Episcopal Church.
(When you have cats, your Christmas greenery options are limited.)
Instead of only lighting candles on Sundays, though, we light the appropriate ones every night throughout Advent. We have our own short service with music, Scripture, and prayers. I light the candle, play a song appropriate to that week of Advent, lead Bryce and Scott in prayers, and have one of them read the Scripture of the day. It’s a great practice for our little family.
This first week is about hope. Since Advent is about waiting for a hope that is both here and yet to come, I found the Taize song “Wait for the Lord” very appropriate. Before I rounded my boys upstairs to hold our makeshift service around the wobbly dining room table, I checked YouTube for a good version of the song. I settled on one with no instruments. It sounded solemn and somber, something that would evoke feelings of waiting in desperation for a light to shine in the darkness.
We gathered around the table. I lit the candle and hit play on my phone. The song started.
It was a great start. The somber chanting filled the room lit only by our purple candle. We breathed deep and settled into the atmosphere.
And then, just over halfway through the song, a flute solo began.
Not a classical flute solo either. It was a jazzy solo, one which brought thoughts of Kenny G. and elevators to mind.
Nor was it a short solo. It continued for the remaining two minutes of the chant and only became more jazzy and animated as the song progressed.
Needless to say, the once somber atmosphere crumbled a bit, and this irritated Lindsay the Perfectionist.
The song finally concluded, and we continued our service without anyone saying anything about the musical choice.
I went to my room afterwards to do some writing, and Bryce came in before heading out for the evening. “That was really nice,” he told me. He knew I’d been worried about doing a “good job” leading our tradition, and I appreciated his affirmation.
But I had to correct him.
“You mean it was nice until the jazzy flute solo broke in,” I retorted.
Bryce shrugged. “Actually, I thought the solo was very appropriate.”
I raised a quizzical eyebrow at him (or at least I tried, since I’m bad at raising one eyebrow at a time). “You think so?” I asked.
“Absolutely,” he replied. “It began solemn, which you wanted. But the flute built it up into a cheer.”
Huh. How about that.
That’s Advent, y’all.
It’s our waiting building up into a cheer. It’s journeying through the somberness with a stubborn joy at the heart of it. It’s frustrating to wait, because we know both how the story ends yet understand how the world still is. But we keep waiting. We keep chanting. And we keep playing solos.
Advent begins with waiting and ends with cheering.
It begins with restless expectation, and it ends with the beginning of God’s upside down kingdom.
The somber tune ends with a jazzy flute solo.
Thank God for that.