Emmanuel God With Us: Waiting at the Threshold(s) of Advent

I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the presence of my God.”  --Psalm 84: 10

Advent (which in Greek means “appearance or coming”) is a liturgical time we prepare and wait for the Light of Christ to come into the world on Christmas.  It’s a time of light, shadow, candles, pondering, reflection, and prayer.  It’s a time to notice the seasonal summer light fading and winter darkness rising. On each of the four Sundays of Advent we will light a candle in our Advent altar wreath to mark the coming of the light of Christ. (There is no Christ candle during the Advent season- Paradoxically, Jesus is present and also not born yet). 

At home we also mark this time with an Advent calendar. Our Advent calendar is an Etsy treasure: made from a crafty festive door hanging shoe holder. In each of the 24 pockets we leave notes and little gifts for each other. Our son is, of course, more than ready for the Advent Calendar tradition to get going. And even though he understands the spiritual task of “waiting” during Advent. He asked me with great consternation earlier this week, “Mommy why do we have to wait for the waiting!?” 

Waiting can be a tough thing for a six-year-old.  Sometimes it is hard for us grownups too.  Especially when the world is encouraging us to charge ahead- to clean, bake, address cards, make travel arrangements, get the nativity out, decorate, make everything perfect, and spend, spend, spend. But as we enter this Advent time, I encourage you (and our son) to slow down and savor the moment. It is the season of “Emmanuel. God with us” (Matthew 1:23).  Jesus will be born on December 25. But this is the time to wait and pay attention to where he is showing up: in the present moment- in the here and in the now. 

As Jan Richardson astutely points out, “Advent is a threshold.”  A threshold is a place of going out and coming in. It is a place of boundary, sustenance, fear, anticipation, not-knowing, and mystery.  Archaeologists tell us in the Ancient Near East (before there were community threshing floors) that there was a flat place at the entrance of the house where the women separated the wheat buds from the chaff, so they could make bread. In the Hebrew Bible, doorposts are marked at Passover, the thresholds in the temple take on great importance. A community threshing floor is the special place where Ruth “uncovered the feet” of Boaz (Ruth 3:7). (P.S. She was doing more than uncovering his feet. sex, relationship markers, and marriage are threshold experiences too.) 

In Japanese culture, shoes are removed or put on when crossing the threshold of the house. In Chinese Feng Shui, the threshold is of great importance to the energy of the house and is treated with great care. Modern Jews place Mezuzahs on their door posts that have the Shema prayer inside, and many of us put out welcome mats and decorate our thresholds with wreaths during the holiday season. And doors aren’t our only thresholds. Windows, gates, bridges, wilderness places, mountaintops, ocean beaches, rivers, and valleys are all thresholds.  

This year at UCH we are going to spend the waiting time of Advent exploring ways we are standing at the threshold(s): as Seekers, as a Nation, and as Beloved Community. The Psalmist exclaims “I have chosen to stand at the threshold in the house of my God!” (Psalm 84:10) I look forward to standing together during this sacred season with you in the presence of the coming light of Christ.  Please join us as we encounter Emmanuel God With us at the threshold together.  -Rev. Jeanne

(If you are interested in learning more about the Christian Season of Advent, there is an excellent article and resources here:  https://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html )