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I’m not ready for Advent. At least, I don’t feel ready.

I’ve already purchased the purple and rose colored Advent pillar candles we need for Advent worship. Jeff and I have already planned our Advent and Christmas sermon series based on Jill J. Duffield’s book Advent in Plain Sight. We’ve perused Advent hymns, even happening upon new words to a familiar tune that we may sing as we light the Advent candles each week.

Usually, this time of year is filled with “holy panic,” the realization that we never bought new Advent candles and we have no idea where the Advent wreath got stored when it was put away the year before. I usually feel the anxiety rise in me as I come to terms with how little time there is to prepare all the things that need doing to make for a meaningful Advent and peaceful Christmas.

But, this year, those things are ready. I am physically prepared, but my heart seems to be in another place of its own.

I have been wondering if this reticence or uncertainty is something only I am feeling, or if perhaps there are others of you who are ready for Christmas joy, but are pulling back from the expectation of Advent. If this describes you, please know you are not alone.

I have felt a curiosity about my Advent reluctance, and I have speculated that my sense of unease about Advent is because the last two years have been spent in a kind of anxious expectation because of COVID-19. When the words “global pandemic” were first uttered in March 2020, I opened the Notes app on my phone and began keeping daily records of case counts and deaths from the novel disease. I waited with dread and worry for the phone call (that eventually came) that school was no longer deemed safe for my children, and I looked at their new schedules of Zoom classes with apprehension and concern. How would we make it through these troubled days?

Eventually, the daily dread and doomscrolling gave way to an overall sense of heaviness. Everything felt unwieldy. Mundane tasks like grocery shopping became chores to prepare for (and fret about). Every day I would wake up and fearfully check my phone for the latest information about political unrest, rising cases of disease, and protests over racial injustice. I developed an unhealthy relationship with expectation. I expected bad things around previously delightful corners.

Expectation gave way to hypervigilance, and I have spent the last year trying to heal from the soul-level weariness I was carrying. For this reason, I have felt an uncomfortable uncertainty about the season of Advent. Can I learn to wait in joyful expectation once again?

For this reason, I decided to write an Advent candle lighting series called “Advent for Uncertain Hearts.” Each week (hopefully on Fridays), I will post a short litany for lighting the Advent candle for the week. These litanies may be used either at home or in services or worship, however they seem most helpful to you. My goal with these weekly writings is to help my uncertain heart prepare—not for the frenzied and frenetic pace of Christmastime, but for the wholeness of living a life with space for the holiness of God to dwell.

As the series unfolds, I will also update this post with links to each new litany. My prayer is that these weekly writings will be an exercise in my heart preparing him room. Perhaps these may be that for you, too.

Posts in the Advent for Uncertain Hearts series

Week 1 – When It Is Hard to Hope

Week 2 – When There Is No Peace

Week 3 – Joy at Arm’s Length

Week 4 – Love in the Struggle

Christmas Eve