If myself of 1999 were able to talk to myself of 2105, I would ask, “What is DJ like, really?”
And I would reply, “He’s the type of person who gets excited about celebrating Advent.”
DJ is a church nerd. He truly enjoys church services, Scripture readings, and observing traditional feasts and seasons. Although he’s fine putting up the Christmas tree early in December and likes listening to Christmas music throughout the month, he still makes a distinction. Until December 25, we are not in the Christmas season. We’re in Advent, the time of waiting and preparing. Isn’t it great?
I’m much less enamored with anything having to do with church or traditions, but I appreciate his enthusiasm. DJ’s uncluttered love of God and church keeps my edges soft; it reminds me that there’s really something there to hold onto, even if it doesn’t suit my style. And also… well, I laugh at him, because it’s funny.
He’s pared down our traditions this year. We used to do Jesse Tree and the Advent Wreath and memorization at the dinner table and attending all special services at church. This year we’re just lighting a candle and listening to a short reading every night. It’s much less grand than DJ would like; but quality beats out quantity.
The readings are very simple, aimed at children. Neither DJ nor I thought it was anything particularly hard-hitting. Just “prepare our hearts for Jesus’ coming on Christmas” and “honor God by loving even those who annoy you.”
One child objected to the preparation readings, saying they were very unsettling references to the reality of death and eternity. Another child broke down in tears over the terrible guilt of not loving annoying people.
We sympathized with the first child, because even with the great hope of resurrection and heaven, eternity is awful — in both its old sense and modern sense. When the second child retreated to bed in tears, I walked past the room to find DJ sitting on the edge of the bed, the Book of Common Prayer open, reading about God’s grace and mercy toward us who just can’t do everything right.
DJ and I are navigating these spiritual surprises as best we can. Advent is a time of repentance, thoughtfulness, and preparation, but we weren’t expecting so much of a reaction from five-minute readings by candlelight.
It reminds me, of course, of why it’s important to observe ceremonies and rituals, no matter how short or unexciting. I also remember how grateful I am to have a man whose steady joy in God quietly overflows to his family.
And this year, more than ever, we can’t wait to be done with the solemn season of Advent, and get to the raucous joy of Christmas already.