This week we have the Advent lessons and carols service at the younger children’s school. Of course my 8-year-old doesn’t want anything to do with it, though he can sing perfectly well. The 3-year-old, on the other hand, walks around the house singing, “Alleluia! The Lord is coming to stay!” and “Stay awake! Be ready!” and also reminding us that “no one knows the day or the hour.”
I always consider motherhood as a spiritual discipline. Faith-shaping, patience-testing, hope-building and joy-giving, it is an exercise of love at its easiest and its hardest. But usually the connection between my Christian faith and the work of parenting is at the practical level. The expressions of love (“the best part of my day is seeing my mummy”) fill my heart, and the surly disobedience (best left unrepeated) breaks it. But this is different: this is a little chime, reminding me over and over what Advent is all about: stay awake! Be ready! The Lord is coming!
I choose to understand my making-ready in light of the second reading from yesterday, Gaudete Sunday. “Rejoice!” Easier said than done, but the passage from 1 Thessalonians goes on to explain that the injunctions (which include “pray constantly” and “give thanks in everything”) constitute “the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” This has a two-fold benefit. It gives me some concrete things to do to prepare (pray, “rejoice” and “give thanks”) that don’t occupy any space on the to-do list but rather accompany all the comings and goings and doings. And it also frees me from the worry about what “the will of God” might be. In a (school) year marked by transition, when the next steps are as yet unknown, it’s easy to become anxious (really, really easy) about what God has in store for us.
Now I know: rejoice, pray, give thanks. And then I will be ready for the Lord, whenever and wherever he meets me.