It is nearly 3:30 in the afternoon in Ethiopia. By my estimation, the boys have meet the kids and have been with them for nearly 6 hours so far, of which I have slept maybe 5. I have puttered around my house now to the point of exhaustion (not mine, the house's!) and have very little left to do on my to do list. During the night, out my windows, I have been able to take in the houses in our neighborhood that our already lighted up for the Christmas season.
It dawned on me somewhere in the midst of my cleaning frenzy, that I am doing exactly what I don't want to do. The self-imposed activity has had or will have any effect on what I should be truly preparing for this week. It reminded me a bit, as we prepare this Sunday to celebrate the season of Advent, which precedes Christmas, that slowing down to prepare my heart is more important.
Advent is a liturgical season and a time of waiting and expectation. For Catholic Christians, it is a time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. The problem is, that Advent falls right between two very festive, and in America, hugely secularized celebrations containing turkeys and Santa Claus, during which the spirit of Advent can get lost. I have to admit, it is hard to think about prayers, fasting and vigilance in preparation for the celebration of Christmas, but I think I get it a little more this year than in the past.
When I was a little girl, I remember having friends who put their Christmas decorations up weeks before us. I rememeber how when we finally put our tree up and decorated it, it was nearly Christmas already. Now, this is not a condemnation of people who decorate early; it is more a reminder for myself that there is purpose in the waiting. Taken in context, the purpose of Advent really isn't joy per se, but the anticipation of the joy to come. On Christmas Eve, some 30 years ago, I vividly remember driving home from my grandparents house and marveling at the houses suddenly aglow with the splendor of the night. It was pure magic. That the time had finally come to celebrate after what seemed to me the wait of an eternity, is not lost on me as an adult. For centuries before that first Christmas, all of mankind had been waiting and then, voila, God flipped the ultimate lightswitch and the Light of the World appeared! Again--pure magic and sheer joy for those who had dwelled in darkness for centuries.
That's the kind of end I want to our adoption journey. Sure, I'd like the house to be organized and clean, but not at the expense of my heart being ready. So, until I hear from the boys about their meeting today, I will leave you with a favorite Advent meditation the is going to take a prominent place on my freshly dusted table:
If as with Herod,
We fill our lives with things,
And again with things;
If we consider ourselves so important
That we must fill every moment of our lives with action;
When will we have the time
To make the long, slow journey
Across the burning desert
As did the Magi?
Or sit and watch the stars
As did the Shepherds?
Or brood over the coming of the child
As did Mary?
For each of us
There is a desert to travel,
A star to discover,
And a being within ourselves
To bring to life.
-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen