I had a different story I was going to tell you here, one about gifts and connection and community. I had a plan. It was going to be great. (I imagine. I hadn’t actually written anything down yet, so who knows.)
But then my kids caught a stomach bug. Instead of telling you a story, I became a full-time comforter of small people and monitor of fluid levels.
I have had, in other words, days and days to practice doing the next right thing, and no other things.
So I have been doing that. The Next Right Thing. Many of those things have been laundry. None of the things have been “eat a chocolate cake.” Whatever. I am being reminded of what a good fallback the next right thing can be.
Doing the next right thing will move you forward. Doing the next right thing demands your presence, and it lets you connect with everyone else who is present with you. That’s not nothing.
This is a week of the next right thing, and that is all. That is enough.
But this morning a friend reminded me that this is also the season of advent, the season of waiting, of preparing, of anticipating.
I mean, I knew this. We own candles. We’ve even burned them some of the days. Other days we’ve ignored them and fallen asleep on the couch holding a feverish toddler, and that was observance enough.
We haven’t opened the storybooks or followed a calendar. Those have not been the Next Right Thing, and we’ve only been doing the next right thing.
But there’s doing the next right thing as an act of endurance, and then there’s doing the next right thing with hope and expectation. I can keep my head down or I can look ahead, but I can’t do both at once.
It sounds so stuffy, doesn’t it? Observing advent? But it’s not like that, not really. Advent is a whole season set aside to remember that what’s right in front of us is not all there is. Advent is four weeks of remembering together that darkness does not win. Brokenness, shame, separation–these things do not win. Love wins. Love always wins.
It’s a time for searching your heart, for letting go of anything that’s keeping you in the darkness. It’s preparing for the return of the light.
Because advent is about waiting, but it’s not like waiting in a waiting room. It’s not about waiting for your turn, and it’s not about waiting to see what the news will be. Advent is about waiting for good news for everyone.
It’s not just waiting for the dark thing, the hard thing, the unpeaceful thing to end so that life can go back to normal.
Advent is holding your breath in the quiet moment before, that one moment of anticipation. It’s waiting for the fireworks to begin. It’s waiting for the first note of the song. It’s waiting for a new leaf to turn over, for peace to break out, for joy to set up shop.
Advent says, I see the darkness. Now wait, now watch for the light.
It’s such a little thing, a tiny little shift in your heart and mind. Not just enduring, but hoping, anticipating—even while you do the next right thing.