The season of Advent isn’t here yet, but choirs have already been preparing for some time. Preparing for the season of preparation. Expectantly acting towards the season of expecting. We all work ahead of each season (as well as doing some quick, spontaneous work that responds to the current season), so we really live out Advent every day.
You might not be in a choir, but this way of preparing will resonate with some aspect of your life. One thing I love in what choir practice reveals about Advent every day is that we each have agency. When we start to learn a song, we are a long way from getting the sound we’ll make after it’s been well rehearsed. We have to imagine the result that is coming and we have to wait through all the days and weeks of practice for the time to come when we hear that sound fully embodied. But we never have to wait passively – in fact, if we merely waited passively, we’d block the possibility of that sound being born. It’s a great gift to us that we have our own work to do as part of the waiting.
At the same time, it’s not all up to us to control the process tightly all the way and force the result we want. Part of the waiting is playing with the process and the medium (voices, or whatever you’re working with – paint? words? people? your body?), letting them tell you how we’re going to take the next step. Advent every day is acting in the expectation of God inhabiting you and your medium and your actions and your fellows, using your part to make something transcendent. That gives us the freedom to work wholeheartedly and without any anxiety.
Being open to discerning what you should be preparing for is also part of the experience of Advent every day. There’s usually a point in choir rehearsals at which that imagined final result falters, you forget that you’re in the hands of a director, you doubt your own ability to see it through, and you question whether you should back out. Then, usually, you discern that you should go through with it, rather like Joseph. For a little while after he heard that Mary was expecting a child, his preparations were all oriented towards getting out of a very uncomfortable situation! It was later that Joseph discerned that, instead, he could work towards the Advent that embraces all kinds of peril. I bet that Joseph’s dream was only just reassuring enough to see him through the difficulties of that time, too!
Expectant waiting is what I learn from choir about Advent every day. A kind of waiting that is active, wholehearted, carefree, discerning, and trusting. What would you add from your experience?