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I’m Rev. Jess Chancey, filling in for John one last time as he is away on sabbatical. That is, if he can pry this podcast away from me.
Advent is such a hopeful time for Christians, looking towards Christmas and the coming of the Christ child. Or the coming of presents, depending on your age and priorities. Then again, maybe Advent is a particularly stressful time… Church staff members and worship leaders put final touches on each service that will be so much better than last year. Pastors make last-minute updates to sermons that they wrote before the latest news headline made their message irrelevant. Or they’re up at 4am Sunday morning realizing they completely forgot they were preaching that day. Parents, spouses, friends, people of all kinds crush into stores, desperate to find that perfect gift for the person who will not answer the simple “what do you want for Christmas” question except to say, “Oh, I don’t really need anything.” Or maybe you’re fretting through online shopping, wondering if all these shipping delays will have you piously reminding your loved one that Christmas actually lasts through January 6, so it’s not really late.
I try to avoid all of this stress by embracing the youthful joy that is advent calendars. And of course I mean the kind with chocolate. This year, I remembered how hard last year was and decided I needed to go all out and get no fewer than four advent calendars. Okay, one was a gift, but the other three were gifts to myself. Each morning I have a chocolate from calendar number one, and each evening, after taking part in the prayer and reflection offered on the UCC website, I have a fancier piece of chocolate from calendar number two, decide whether or not to indulge in the glass of wine from calendar number three, and open a little Doctor Who collectible from my TARDIS-shaped calendar number four. Clearly, this is highly religious stuff.
But isn’t it though? You see, folx who attend Advent worship services will remember that each week of Advent has a special theme, beginning with hope, then peace, then joy, then love. There’s a candle in the Advent wreath for each of those themes, and one of them is a different color from the rest, normally a bright, rosy pink. Why is it different? Well, originally, Advent was a time of deep penitence. Think Lent in winter. But one week was a break from all that, hence the different color. Any guess what that week was? Yes, the third week, the week of joy.
For those of us with mental health stuff that gets exacerbated in the colder weather and around holidays, this season makes it really hard to feel much joy. Even people who don’t normally battle issues like depression may feel a certain level of holiday blues start to creep in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. So I think I can be forgiven if I have a favorite Advent week, and I choose to cheat a little by expanding that week to encompass the whole season. It’s not liturgically pure, but it’s fun, so there.
As this episode releases, we are in the home stretch, lighting that fourth candle to celebrate love and looking towards the manger for that most honored of births. I hope you’ll let last week’s joy seep in, giving your love that joie de vivre that makes it dance and shine. Go back to my previous episodes for ideas on how you can tap into your joy, whether it be from active self-care, time with your friends, or contemplating all that you’re grateful for. Whatever you do, may it keep your soul as full as your Christmas dinner belly, on this, our journey into the mystic.