“For everything there is a season” (Eccl. 3:10—I am sure you know the scripture well. We are all familiar with it and yet it is so often misused.
People will often quote the verse in response to a bad thing that has happened or a hard time that you are going through. But if you look back at the verses in Ecclesiastes 3, a world is depicted that involves not only the bad but the good, “a time to mourn” AND “a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). The passage goes on to say (and I love this!), that God has made “everything beautiful in its time” and that “He has set eternity in our hearts" (Eccl. 3:11).
There is so much more going on here than the mere passage of time with all of its joys and sorrows. Here, in Ecclesiastes, we find a call to something more, a call to rise above the everyday passage of time and to embrace God’s time.
As a mom with four kids, I feel more like an Uber driver than someone enjoying the holiness of each moment! We rush, rush, rush from doctor’s appointments to football practice to pole vaulting lessons. There is rarely a night unscheduled, much less a weekend! It’s like we are all on an amusement park roller coaster that has reached the first giant peak and for the next three months, life is all breath-taking speed and loops ahead!
To make matters so much worse, we are also entering the busiest holiday season of the year. Christmas decorations exploded into our local stores on October 1st this year (October 1st, people!). We are roughly pushed around from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas with no space to breathe.
We move along with frantic, grasping people who are being jostled, like me, to the next event or the next thing to buy. In the midst of all of this craziness, I am not enjoying the holiness of anything! I feel overwhelmed, anxious and that I have no time to do all of the things that I need to do.
We need an Advent reset.
So I ask myself, “Why am I letting the culture tell me what time it is? Shouldn’t I let the Church tell me what time it is?”
The culture is telling me it’s time to rush, rush, rush. It is also telling me to consume as much as I possibly can over the next few months.
But the Church is telling me that it’s Advent and that it’s time to slow down and to meditate in every way on the mystery of what is getting ready to happen to us on Christmas Day, the Incarnation, God made flesh, the birth of our Savior, Jesus.
I need a reset, a shift, a way to slow down.
Advent is the way. Advent helps us to hear that small, still voice saying, “prepare ye the way of the Lord."
During Advent, my family and I make commitments. We commit to celebrate Advent rather than a frenzied holiday season. We commit to carve out time for meaningful interactions with God and each other.
The idea is not to add more to a “to do” list that is already overwhelmingly long. The idea is to shift our priorities around and to intentionally set aside our time for new things. We remind ourselves that our culture does not dictate the way we live our lives, God does.
One of the things we really try to do more of is to eat together as a family. I have found that this is one of the easiest ways to incorporate Advent into my home. The dinner is nothing fancy. It could be a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, but it is not the food that makes the night special.
What makes the night special is that we have carved-out this time together. We make it special by saying, “this is important and this is what we are going to do. We are going to eat together. We are going to talk to each other, we are going to experience holy time.”
We don’t allow phones at the table from the children or the adults. There are going to be no distractions for the next hour. This is God’s time. We play an Advent playlist softly in the background. We light candles at the table and we turn off all of the other lights.
The effect is magical. My children love the atmosphere, especially the candlelight and it immediately says to us all, “this is a different time now, this is holy time”.
For the next hour, we talk, we laugh and we eat. As I look around, the light of the candles cast a soft glow and every face is filled with a newfound sense of wonder.
This is what celebrating Advent does, it takes the chaos and the frantic rush of our lives and it forces us to slow down. We are given, as a family, time. And not just any kind of time, God’s time.
When I realized the church had already created a way for me to enter into God's time (what the writer of Ecclesiastes was talking about), I got excited. By reordering my family’s life to follow the seasons of the church, everything became full of intention and meaning.
Now, when I make a meal for the people in my life, it is no ordinary meal! It is a foretaste of the banquet table that God has prepared for us in heaven.
Now, when I decorate my home for the season, it’s not in response to the latest fad, it’s a celebration of the life of Christ.
Now, the everyday moments of my life aren’t just everyday moments anymore! They are shaped by the seasons of the Church. And so they are holy. And God is making everything beautiful in its time.
If you'd like to learn more about Advent and how to celebrate it with your family and friends, check out my book, The Liturgical Home - Advent.