Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent.
Part of me is ready for the new season, the new liturgical year, the cycle to begin again. In a way, I’ve been ready for months, because, well, 2020.
But somehow, paradoxically, I don’t feel quite ready for Ordinary Time to end.
Ordinary Time has helped me to feel grounded this year, after such a lenty Lent and the ongoing uncertainty of the world around us.
As a general rule in a normal year, I love November: that we get to kick it off with remembering and appreciated those who have gone before by honoring All Saints Day, that we get to wrap it up with Christ the King Sunday, remembering the end of The Story and the reason we keep on keeping on. Even better, this year, with Advent sneaking in here on Thanksgiving weekend, the month of November feels extra full and complete.
We also celebrated our family’s fourth Covid-19 birthday this month, which would have seemed unfathomable back in April when we celebrated the first one in quarantine.
And yet here comes Advent.
There is a season for everything.
A week or so ago, yet another friend told me she’d decorated for Christmas, but prefaced her announcement with “I know you don’t approve of this, but….”
It isn’t true I don’t approve of it, I wanted to tell her. I don’t approve of it as part of our family’s tradition, but I’m fine with other families having different traditions.
I’m known among our acquaintances as being someone who cares a lot about the liturgical calendar, and apparently our family’s progressive decorating and holding off on Christmas music and glam in favor of Advent-themed projects stands out in people’s minds. Because it comes up all the time, especially when others sheepishly tell me they’ve already decorated.
A lot of people this year–because the year is so overwhelmingly sucky–have decided that they are going to do more Christmas stuff. More decorations. More gung-ho. Earlier. Bigger. Better. More.
That’s not me. That’s not our family. Because we are more of the Everything-Has-A-Season kind of folks.
But today, the day before Advent begins, today you found a dead bird in the yard. Your dad wasn’t home because he was picking up our friends at the hospital, so I found myself lugging a shovel out of the shed and burying the bird’s body.
As I carried the shovel back to the shed, I thought about death and Advent and new life and the Coronavirus. I thought about what Ordinary Time means right now, what Advent means, and whether it’s a beginning or an ending and how it matters to the Kingdom. I thought about the changes to our family over the next few months and what opening our home and offering hospitality will look like. I thought about community and I thought about our friend’s daughter coming home from the hospital today. I thought about our neighbor pregnant with twins, another friend’s tiny foster baby unable to have visitation with her biological parents because of COVID-19, the difficulty of knowing how to love our literal neighbors and see Jesus in the least of these. I thought about your 97-year-old great-great-grandmother. Today I made a handlettered sign for another pregnant friend; yesterday I opened a card from my other grandmother that had been quite literally sealed with a kiss of lipstick. I also opened up a thank-you note from a friend whose father-in-law died of the coronavirus earlier this year.
I thought about all of these things, about life and death and hope and sadness and vocation and how we live all of them all the time.
No matter the season.
Yep, I got all of that from a shovel and a dead bird the day before Advent begins.
But what I mean is this:
There is a season for everything.
And sometimes things get all mushed together.
That’s the Kingdom. That’s life.