Behind that door

Do you have an Advent calendar? My colleague/friend Stacy has the kind with chocolate. I don’t have that. I’m a tiny bit jealous, mainly because Sinterklaas didn’t bring me an A-shaped hunk of dark chocolate this week (hint, hint, Mom).

Caritas Australia Advent Calendar

I do have an Advent calendar on my shiny new smartphone. It’s an app from Caritas Australia, and even though it’s a little location-specific (to Australia), I think it has a lot of great things to offer. Every day includes a story and a few words from Scripture, a prompt for personal reflection, a prayer, and a suggestion for action. It’s also nicely designed, which is a small thing, but important to me.

Busted Halo Advent Calendar

I followed Busted Halo’s online Advent calendar last year, and thought it was great. I’m enjoying it this year as well—it connects some snippet of pop culture (so far this year: muppets, David Sedaris, Mindy Kaling, Lincoln) with a related “microchallenge,” some small and very doable action for the day.

I have an Advent wreath too, this year, but I forgot until the middle of this week, and I still have to find candles. It’s a really lovely ceramic piece, though, and I’m excited to use it.

Advent is a waiting period, and I think these calendars help us emphasize the anticipation of the season. I remember the excitement I felt as a child tearing open a new cardboard door to see what might be inside. Chocolate, generally, which was exciting enough—I was a kid, it was candy. I could never escape the feeling, though, that sometime it might not be chocolate behind that door (I didn’t really understand how consumer products work…or inductive reasoning). I was always attuned to the possibility that one day I might not find candy, but Something Else. Who knows what? A plastic toy? A sticker? A secret key to a hidden door to another land?

While I still imagine with abandon, I’ve lost some of this wonder and sense of possibility. Sure, I don’t know what Caritas or Broken Halo will bring out next, and the website/app are designed in such a way that I can’t peek ahead, but I know what to expect—because that’s how the design functions (and because I’ve gotten better at inductive reasoning).

What if something did come, though? I doubt a foil-wrapped chocolate is going to pop out of my phone’s screen, though that would be amazing. A surprise needn’t be so explicit, though. What about a message speaking to me more deeply and directly than I might’ve imagined? What about a spark to some sort of earth-changing action? What about the arrival of God become man, incarnate on earth? 

Oh yeah, that’s the point of this season.

So one Advent practice (or something) I’m reaching toward this season is becoming reacquainted with the childlike eyes of wonder. Perhaps through these eyes I might see something I would otherwise miss.


Do you have an Advent calendar? A favorite Advent practice? How do you practice and cultivate a sense of Wonder?


5 thoughts on “Behind that door

  1. This is beautiful, Alissa.

    When God comes, s/he’s not what we expect. Even when we look at Scripture. We are waiting, but for what?

    It takes divinely given hope to continue to wait year after year with open eyes and hearts for a Jesus we have never seen and do not see now. How wonderful is it that every year, while we wait to celebrate the birth of Christ, we find that it is we ourselves who are also being (re)born, like Nicodemus. The manger will still be empty on Christmas morning, but the miracle of the Incarnation is happening in our hearts even during Advent, when we are perhaps most keenly aware that we are living in the “betwixt and between,” that there is no peace in Bethlehem.

    May God give all of us eyes to see him where he may be found.

  2. Your comment on “childlike eyes of wonder” stuck out to me. This is the first year that I am reclaiming an old family tradition from my childhood and making it my own.

    My family had an advent wreath for years when I was growing up. My brother and I squabbled constantly about who would light the candles and pick the carols we would sing. The tradition fell away as my parents divorced right before Christmas and since then our wreath had been buried. I saved it, though I no longer believed myself a Christian, as the rest of my family was ready to get rid of it and I couldn’t let it go. Now, over five years later I have brought it out from my closet to explore my first advent as an Episcopalian.

    Alone, I no longer get to fight with my brother over who will light the candles, yet the candle is lit. Each devotion starts with a prayer from the same book we used as children. The prayers are basic, such as “God help me to be nice to people who are mean to me” which reminds me to hold to simplicity in this season. What comes next depends on the night, sometimes I’ll read Compline, or pray with Anglican prayer beads. Other times, like last night I just sit and listen as I watch the lone flame of the first candle dance back and forth…waiting patiently for what will come next.

    Yes, Advent this year has brought about a sense of childlike wonder, as the best parts of my past are colliding with best parts of my present to build a youthful exhilaration at a coming future.

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