Monday, 12 December 2011

Neverending Advent Calendar

Three little faces watched the computer screen, a rare treat while visiting grandparents. An online Advent calendar offered wonderful animations set in the city of London, England.  Nine December days had already passed so there were nine windows to enjoy.
The children eagerly mouse-clicked on numbered Christmas balls to open up charming vignettes. There was a comic restaurant scene, a dog and cat chasing each other onto the London Eye Ferris wheel, a white cart-horse munching on Covent Garden vegetables, and three ships sailing one after the other under the Tower Bridge.
On one date the calendar allowed the user to decorate a Christmas tree over and over. On another page, the children took turns designing a snowflake of their own that then magically fell across the sky in the city scene. 
This interactive gift from our friend, Vi, was created by artist Jacquie Lawson

Three small bodies bounced with excitement after seeing all nine. “Let’s do the next one!”

Uh-oh. Hard truth strikes again. This is an Advent Calendar. You can look at all the days that have passed and you can enjoy today’s treat, but you are not allowed to open tomorrow’s scene. Little faces went blank. The children wriggled down from their chairs, turned to their grandmother and said, “Oh, okay. What are we going to do now?”

What a great idea Advent Calendars are, teaching children to wait, practicing when they’re young. When they’re older they’ll understand that life is like a bawx of chawclits, and also like an advent calendar that goes year round. We can’t know what tomorrow’s mouse-click will reveal. Meanwhile we wait. 
Waiting feels so unnatural to us that one man I know starts huffing and puffing if a red stoplight lasts longer than he thinks it should. My beloved knows that eventually the red will turn green. Even so, he finds it hard to wait a few extra seconds. 

 The church’s season called “Advent” reminds us of a cosmic waiting. The four weeks are meant to be suffused with hope, hope based on a promise we find hard to believe. We know that the prophesied baby arrived, but will there yet be peace on earth? When one of our own days is filled with more of life’s rotten tricks than it is with treats, patient waiting is almost impossible. As Margaret Atwood wrote, 
“The facts of this world, seen clearly, are seen through tears.” 
Can it be true that God will one day wipe away the tears from all weeping eyes once and for all? 

God doesn’t seem to act the way traffic lights do, no matter how hard we wish. God is way more unpredictable, as far as timing goes. But if the promises are true, then the Christmas angel’s reassurance makes more sense. “Don’t be afraid, there’s good news!”
 Maybe, like the three wise children, we can surrender to the hard facts of life, and turn to God, “Okay. What are we going to do now?”