Advent is blossoming slowly in our home this year, growing from the seed of a single candle, small and lonely in the darkness, but bearing the power of eternal hope. There’s been a lot more “real” than “pretty” or “happy” this week but I’m realizing that Advent doesn’t have to be a big or glamorous production to invite wonder into my heart or introduce the hushed anticipation of the season to my children.
For me, the most beauty has come in re-discovering the ancient Advent hymns, including one of my all-time favorites:
Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descending
Comes our homage to demand.
King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.
Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
Comes the powers of hell to vanquish
As the darkness clears away.
At His feet the six winged seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Lord Most High!
I love how it weaves together the themes of all His comings – the Incarnation at Christmas, His coming into each of our lives as our Lord and King, His presence with us in the Eucharist, and His Second Coming when He will completely conquer sin and death. Though right now we’re specifically remembering the waiting for His birth, there’s a sense in which we both wait for Him and meet Him every day – hailing Him as our Lord, consuming Him in the bread and the wine, longing for Him to come finally and fully heal and redeem all things.
In the meantime, while we wait, we do the little things we can do remember Him and prepare for His coming. I may not have a beautiful handmade wreath this year, but I can get out my plastic evergreen backup wreath and still light the candles and sing the hymns and point my eyes to heaven. I may not have any sort of tree to use for the Jesse Tree devotional, but I can still read the stories with my children and see how God has been writing His plan of salvation through all the pages of history.
He is coming. Into this darkness, He is coming with hope. And I, in my brokenness and inadequacy and sin, am holding desperately onto that hope. In this crossroads between my reality and His promises, I am finding the heart of Advent this year.
(Joined to the link-up at Like Mother, Like Daughter today – the theme is Advent this week, and everyone’s first beginnings of the season, so there should be a lot of beauty there.)