Advent Journal: Annunciation

I’ve been marking time. The season of Advent officially begins today, marked by waiting and anticipation – but these past four weeks have already been spent in a unique sort of lingering.

All of my five kids were home in November. That’s a rare thing, these days, with all the busy activities of their adult lives, and the fact that one lives on the opposite coast and another has resided in the Deep South for a few years. But with a major transition to a new overseas military post, we had the opportunity to be in the same place together for a short period of time – and so we did.

COVID brought complications and some restrictions, but for the most part, the joy of being present in moments of togetherness – long walks, making dinner, honest conversations – was deeply felt by all. As my kids grow and discover themselves, I’ve found flexibility to be a key component of familial joy and the rich marrow of relationships that can expand and flex as needed. We’ve added the next generation to the mix with the birth of my granddaughter last year, so everyone is adjusting to new roles and seeing things through the eyes of a toddler.

And yet, in every shared celebratory moment of togetherness there lurked this knowledge: Our time was limited. One by one, the days went by, and the leaving began. My youngest daughter boarded a flight for the West Coast – ready to return to the life that she has claimed for her own, 2,500 miles from me. The next day was filled with intentional togetherness – small, familiar holiday rituals, words of affirmation, hugs, and tears, making the most of the final day before my other daughter and her little family headed 4,000 miles in the other direction.

I’m reading Scott Erickson’s Honest Advent as I mark this un-ordinary time of year leading up to Christmas Day. The first day, titled “Annunciation,” quotes the angel Gabriel as he speaks to Mary:

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you!”

The text goes on to share the obvious; Mary was a little shook up, and she wondered what the angel meant. Traditionally, this is known as “The Annunciation” – the annunciation. The one that matters. The one that sets things in motion, begins the process, announces that something big is going on. The angel says the words, explains a little more, and leaves Mary completely confused (see Luke 1:28-38) – but open to the idea.

Here’s how things are going to be. I know it’s weird; I know you might have expected something a little different, but there’s a plan. It’s in motion. It’s a lot to take in, I know. And it might be a little challenging along the way.

Honestly, I expected my kids to grow up, marry their true love, settle down within spitting distance, have babies, and live happily ever after – with me close enough to be all up in their business (particularly when it came to the grandkids). This was a loose expectation, to be sure; I never hung my hat on this as my greatest desire, but I just sort of assumed that’s the way things would go. We’re a close family – the kids deeply love another.

But that doesn’t necessarily translate to a desire to build lives close to home; it doesn’t push back against the longing to see the world and have adventures and explore, all the things that I actually raised my kids to strive for. So I’m accepting that my expectations were simply half-formed thoughts of what the future might look like – instead of a clear-eyed look at what these incredible children who have become adults might actually get to do with their lives.

And now that picture is a bit clearer.

The text in Luke shows Mary’s response to be this:

I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.

And that’s it. One translation quotes her saying, “Let it be.”

So, we enter a holiday season unlike any other – for a wide variety of reasons. And my intention is to hold it loosely, to let it be.

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