Opening the Windows of Advent
So tonight I learned that the tradition of paper advent calendars with windows that open to chocolate, or, for the more pious of us, Bible verses, started in Germany in the early 1900s.
Come the advent of WWII, cardboard use was restricted, and so these calendars went the way of so many fine things during these years, and didn’t show up again until the 1950s.
My son Karl’s physical therapist gave him one of these calendars a few days ago, and he is thrilled with it.
And as much as I like him to know his Bible, he’s very glad for the chocolate hiding behind each paper pane.
He takes after his mama in his preference for chocolate in most things, so much that he is tempted to bust open all those windows and snarf every last crumble of chocolate.
We talked about Advent at supper tonight.
Today’s the first day of this season, and so it was the first day that we lit a candle on our wreath, and we sung the first verse of “Oh Come O Come Emmanuel” for our mealtime prayer, but even though I’m a theologian by trade it would be far too organized for me to actually have a daily devotion at hand for Advent.
Remember, I would pick chocolate.
And so instead of a pre-planned, pre-programmed Advent devotion, over spaghetti we talked about what Advent is about, and what it isn’t about, and why it matters.
Perhaps most importantly in our culture, I told the children, Advent is tough because ordinarily, we like to get things immediately.
We don’t like waiting.
We want what we want now.
I even confessed that for the first time, I’m tempted to put up our Christmas tree early, because by the time that Christmas actually rolls around (December 25th, and for 12 days, as in The Twelve Days of Christmas) I’m so Christmased out that I can barely bear a hearty Joy to the World, let alone stare at a Christmas tree for 12 more freaking days, since I’ve been assaulted with them since before Thanksgiving.
Dad’s talking me down by reminding me that his father bought their tree early and stuffed it in the basement toilet, which gave him the best pickings of the best trees, and he was free then to put it up whenever he felt like it without that last minute panic about getting the Charlie Brown model, and if one really wants a whiff of pine you know where to find it and not where you’d expect.
Advent is a time especially slated for waiting for something of which, or, in this case, of whom we’ve had a hint, a hope, a glimpse.
But it’s not a passive waiting.
It’s a preparing sort of waiting, a getting ready sort of waiting, an it’s-about-the-present-moment-flowing-into-the-next sort of waiting.
You need a bit of Zen appreciation to be into Advent.
And suddenly I began to think about the window Advent calendars in a fresh sort of way.
Windows place you firmly in one space, but with an eye toward a different space.
In this way, they have you in two places at once, and remind you that although you are ‘here,’ there is a ‘there,’ and knowing that there is a ‘there,’ your ‘here’ is somehow bigger.
And so now I wonder about Advent windows.
What do these Advent texts, these texts which tell of us how our world and ways are, and how God’s vision is something quite different, enter into your present space?
What do you see when you open your Advent windows?
What glimpses of what is coming do you see?