Year after year, the academic calendar brings the gift of a rhythmic return to the same moments. If it’s mid-December, then I’m invariably scraping through exam week while ignoring the Christmas cards that should have been in the mail two days ago. As much as this month is about wanting to wind up the current semester, however, it also involves looking ahead. Just this week, I finalized—belatedly and guiltily—the book order for one of my spring classes. Doing so brought a familiar surge of excitement and anticipation. I have taught this class several times, but each new section offers the opportunity to tinker, improve, and of course meet new students. As I clicked “submit” on that book order, I was struck by the similarity between the renewal promised by the academic calendar and that embedded in the liturgical calendar. At this time of year, both calendars ask us to look ahead with hope. And that regular return of hopeful expectation, founded in students’ academic experience, can be a powerful vocational resource.
“I’m not ready for Christmas.” This was my immediate thought in early November when I noticed that several houses were already displaying Christmas lights on their porches and in their front yards. At this moment, I was reminded of why I love Advent: it’s all about waiting.
A liturgical season in the Christian tradition, Advent begins on the first Sunday after Thanksgiving and extends to Christmas Eve. It’s a season of anticipation, during which we recall the humble birth of Jesus the Savior in Bethlehem. Within cultural Christmas practices, advent calendars are popular—those countdown calendars to Christmas that offer daily gifts or goodies. In the church, the Advent season appears unsensational, especially when compared to the twinkle of lights on trees, the array of musical concerts, and festive gatherings with family and friends. But is it? Is the Advent season for anything other than waiting for Christmas day? I propose that it can challenge us to the continuous and transformative work of justice in our world.Continue reading