advent thoughts: joell

(this post is part of my guest series on advent, christmas, tradition and the like. if you’d like to contribute, comment below!)

joell and i met on a moving sidewalk in heathrow airport about five years ago. we had a casual friendship until about six months later when one day i stood in front of her desk at work and demanded to be her friend. i am a treasure, eh? but it worked and we haven’t really looked back since. sometime, make sure to ask me about my fear of ostriches, how we almost died in the back of a van in rwanda and how joell feels about london at christmas. she blogs at from cynicism to hope

I grew up in a family that is big on Christmas traditions.  Every December 4th my sister and I would slip our shoes out on the front porch (Christmas list tucked neatly inside) and wait in breathless anticipation for the sound of the bell, the sound of the arrival of St. Nicholas.  St. Nicholas was the bringer of my favorite candies and the one who would deliver my wish list to the Christ child.  Every child who follows this tradition knows that St. Nicholas brings candy (or fruit) for those who’ve been good or sticks and coal for the naughty.  Now one might think that eating candy out of a recently used shoe would be disgusting, but this was Christmas for me…and it tasted o’ so good.

Yet another of our Christmas traditions landed on Sunday evenings, specifically the four Sunday evenings prior to Christmas.  After we got out of evening service (yes, they made me go to evening service), we would rush home to celebrate advent.  Mom would prepare our special snacks and Dad would pull out a bottle of Welch’s Sparkling Cider, purchased just for the occasion. It was always my favorite part to be honest and I must say that even to this day, I’m a little bitter that there’s not more in that giant bottle.  I digress.

When all the snacky snacks were gathered, we would sit down around the dining room table.  My dad would place his well-weathered Bible in front of him and flip to the back, to the greatest story ever told…the story of the Christ child.  Each week he would read a section of the story, leading us deeper and deeper into the reality of God made flesh.  We read about a census, an angel, a long journey…a birth.  We heard of shepherds and of wise men…and then it was our turn, our turn to journey, to announce his coming, to worship.

Every week we would light a candle on our advent wreath, one my grandmother painted for us with a giant angel bursting from the center.  We would hold hands and sing, one carol for each week leading up to his birth. We all had our favorites. Mine was always “Joy to the World.”  My mother’s, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”  I remember those days.  My dad’s deep bass voice leading the way, my mom’s soft hand in mine, her voice croaking out carol after carol.  You see, my mom’s not the best of singers.  She will tell you so herself…but the thing about my mom is that she’s sincere.  She means every word she sings, even if it isn’t pretty.

I remember those nights so clearly.  I remember the expectation, waiting for our advent celebration to begin.  I remember reading the story, eager to skip to the end…you know, the good part.  I remember lighting the candle, a symbol of remembrance, of hope, of peace, of expectation…of longing.  I remember these nights because I stand in a long line of people who have waited eagerly for God, who have waited for his coming.  And as I sit here writing this post, I am waiting once again.  For the God made flesh.  For the One who was promised.  For the bringer of hope.  For the One who will end all our pain.  I am waiting…

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Come, Lord Jesus, come….

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