Waiting for the Light

Waiting for the Light

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. – Isaiah 9:2 (KJV)

Our family has approached the season of Advent intentionally over the years.  One year, my husband Kent carefully crafted a wooden ring with 24 holes for candles and a miniature Mary on a donkey accompanied by Joseph on foot. Each day we read the appropriate Scripture verses, lit another candle, prayed, and moved Mary and Joseph along on their journey towards Bethlehem.  On Sundays, we would gather round before church for our Advent practice. As we left for church one Sunday, we noticed that the youngest, about 6 at the time, was dawdling and came out of the house last as we impatiently waited in the car. When we returned home after the service, we were greeted by the unsettling smell of burnt wood. Hurrying into the living room, we discovered why she was late getting into the car. Our Advent ring now had a black, charred spot where a candle had burned all the way down and out on the glass table top. We had a brief fire prevention discussion, the older siblings scolded her, and we were grateful nothing more serious happened.

The faith tradition we are part of does not strictly follow the church calendar nor does it discourage the observance of it, but I have found it to be such a delight and steady help in my Christian walk and in the raising of my family. It helps me with the big picture of the Gospel and invites me on a daily basis into the life of Christ and reminds me that He has a time table so radically different from the world’s.  I still remember my first lesson regarding the church calendar; Christmas doesn’t start until December 25th and doesn’t end until January 5th (The Twelve Days of Christmas/Christmastide).

The season of Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and is where our family began. Advent marks the beginning of the church calendar and is a logical and practical place to start. What parent doesn’t notice the overwhelming commercialism of the season that bombards us with toys, decorations, busy schedules, and movies that begin before Thanksgiving? What parent doesn’t long for more for their family – something deeper, eternal, and meaningful? The antidote to this consumerism culture is waiting – waiting for Jesus to be born, waiting for Jesus to enter our lives, waiting for Him to come again. Observing Advent provides a beautiful way to express this truth about waiting that they will repeatedly acknowledge their entire lives.

Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting, however, is an art that our impatient age has forgotten. It wants to break open the ripe fruit when it has hardly finished planting the shoot. But all too often the greedy eyes are only deceived; the fruit that seemed so precious is still green on the inside, and disrespected hands ungratefully toss aside what has so disappointed them. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A circular, evergreen Advent wreath was one of the first things we did to observe Advent, a deeply symbolic practice that walked us through this dark, hallowed time of waiting for Jesus Christ, the Light of the World. It was simple and easy to do and didn’t take lots of time preparing and fussing. Once a week we lit the candles, read the verses, and prayed as we left to worship in church. For many years, that is all we did. When I tried to do special things every day, I tended to burn out and feel like a failure. Now that all my children are older, I find it easier to do daily readings with them and I don’t fret if we skip a day or two. We just pick up where we left off.

The Lord is coming, always coming. When you have ears to hear and eyes to see, you will recognize him at any moment of your life. Life is Advent; life is recognizing the coming of the Lord. – Henri Nouwen

For myself, I thank Charlotte Mason for moving me beyond observing Advent and into the rhythms of the rest of the Christian year, experiencing the themes of the Christian life on a new level, and allowing these rhythms to transform and change my heart. It was because of her gift to the graduates of her teacher training college. She gave them copies of The Cloud of Witness, a Daily Sequence of Great Thoughts from Many Minds Following the Christian Seasons. I purchased an old copy of this sweet book and began reading it around 10 years ago, entering a spiritual life of thought and meditation previously unknown to me. It was like stepping into a story in which I was a character! Each time I read the story as each year came around again, I could see my scribbles and notes and remember the readings but how interesting to see how I had changed. How inspiring to notice details that went unnoticed last year! How much deeper my thoughts were as I revisited certain themes. And each year continues to reveal new thoughts of God.

This year I am excited to add something new to our family’s Advent traditions. The Golden Key – A Daybook of Helpful Thoughts is written in the format of The Cloud of Witness but specifically for children. I stumbled across it while reading a book review in the Parents’ Review, most likely written by Charlotte Mason herself.  Here are the themes for the 4 weeks of Advent:

  • 1st week – Watchfulness
  • 2nd week – Learning
  • 3rd week – Humility
  • 4th week – Looking Eastward

I am so looking forward to their thoughts from these readings. As my children are now teenagers, they will have their own copies and step into the Christian year alongside me with daily readings much like The Cloud of Witness where they can walk through the church year reflectively. The following selection from The Golden Key will give you an idea of the richness that awaits:

Whether or not you attend a liturgical church, I hope you can see the benefits of observing at least some of the church calendar, knowing that the community of saints around the world are walking this same path and allowing the life of Christ to work in our hearts and minds every day of the year. What a comfort and encouragement! And while we have done a myriad of different activities for Advent that I haven’t mentioned here, I have tried to share with you that it can be simple and should be thoughtful, this season of waiting. I now have a shelf of books on the church year and I delight in learning about following the Christian year from many faith traditions, sharing my journey with others, and helping individuals and families establish their own practices. And even though my daughter almost burned down the house one year, that event has turned into a most appropriate Advent memory about waiting for the Light.

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this life, in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; So that, at the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal. – The Book of Common Prayer

Postscript

The Golden Key and The Cloud of Witness are available for pre-order and will ship by December 12th from Riverbend Press. After all, Advent is the season for waiting!

Charlotte Mason Poetry provides a calendar with page numbers for those reading The Cloud of Witness.

You can read more about The Golden Key here and The Cloud of Witness here.

For more than 23 years, Nancy Kelly has been practicing the principles and living the lifestyle that Charlotte Mason championed. She has been called a “master teacher” of Mason’s methods and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience through immersions, consultations, and speaking engagements. You can read about her family of eight and the books they love on her blog, Sage Parnassus.

©2018 Nancy Kelly

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