1. Hope.Sunday began with a wake-up call from our son at 7:17 a.m. This was typical. As soon as he rolls over in bed, one eye open to the world, he likes to get the day started. He is only four, and for him every day promises to be as good as or better than the day before. He is hope personified. “What will we do after that?” has become a common refrain in our house. To his ambitious mind, we never have a long-enough list to fill the day. My husband mercifully got out of bed to cook breakfast while I slept in. When I came down to the smell of coffee brewing, they had already played three rounds of “Zingo!” and were now into “Pop Fly,” another great invention for the under-five set, where a beanbag thrown at a lever launches miniature balls into the air at surprisingly soaring heights. I sipped my coffee and watched, thinking and planning for the day ahead.
2. Peace.A brief sojourn to the small church up the hill afforded one hour of uninterrupted time. Evergreen wreaths dotted the high walls and a single Christmas tree bowed its branches in the sanctuary. A place for gifts for the needy greeted us. When the minister asked for names of those in need of prayers, it became clear that more than a few of us were fighting our own battles during the holiday season: caring for sick parents, sick children, a wayward teen. As we shook hands during the Peace greeting, we bucked each other up, whispered comforting words. And when our minister lit the second candle of Advent, he spoke of the importance of peace not only in our world but in our own homes, in our families. He reminded us that the very definition of serenity is none other than peace.
3. Joy.A few hours later, grandparents, parents, cousins, and brothers all sat in a row watching their granddaughter/ daughter/cousin/sister perform in a holiday concert in a magnificent hall. Our anticipation was kept in check by the reminder that this was a high school performance after all. We shouldn’t expect too much. But we were still hoping (that first candle) for some holiday cheer, an invigorating song or two. What filled our hearts when we listened to our girl and her classmates sing a gorgeous, intricate holiday madrigal -- right after a bell choir performance and before another girl’s stunning rendition of O Holy Night? Joy.
4. Love.Often the holidays seem to mean more stress, more bickering between siblings, more plain-out exhaustion. And surely those moments have appeared and will reappear as we near the 25th. But on the drive back home, all the children nestled into their seats, the melodies of the Christmas concert still dancing in our heads, what my husband and I felt was one of those rare moments that you can actually take and cup in your hands, like water. How lucky we are, how blessed to all be together, to have an afternoon that was filled with music – and that fourth candle of Advent, love.
It was a good reminder for me: from the Events of the season come the Advents, the arrival of hope, peace, joy, and love. May yours be filled with all the advents you desire.