Between our bedrooms and the living room, a long hallway connects one end of the house to the other. The wooden floors provide the perfect environment to hear the pitter-patter of small feet running down the hall. No matter what time of day my two children run on these floors. Sometimes they’re excited to get to breakfast or greet a family member while other times they run right to their favorite toy. During this Advent season they’re running to the living room to turn on the Christmas tree lights. At 2 and 5 running to get anywhere seems to be the only way they know how to move.
When we get the chance to walk outside, my daughter especially likes to skip. On our way to the park across the street from our home, my daughter runs ahead and then starts skipping down the sidewalk. Some days she’ll skip in the grocery store or on her way out from class. Running and skipping get her to where she wants to be.
When they run, I hear: “Mama, come see! Mama, come on!” They yell as I trail behind them.
“I’m coming,” I always tell them. I don’t run or skip much these days. I walk keeping my eyes in front of me on my children. I also rarely tell them to slow down; I love watching them run together with wide smiles and joy on their faces. I revel in my daughter’s skipping and the happiness she experiences.
“I’m coming,” I keep saying back to them. The enthusiasm my children share is contagious and something I want to cultivate more of, yet, as we embark on this season of Advent, I’m more concerned with walking than running.
We have four weeks ahead of us this Advent. Four weeks to settle into the darkness longing for hope and peace. Advent greets us in one of the darkest seasons of the year, but also, a season of darkness for many who are facing illness, loss, grief, fear, anxiety, or broken relationships. So often it seems like our whole world is groaning in pain and exasperation for all the violence, war, and ravaging of habitat. Advent invites us to feel what the darkness brings and how it rests in our souls. Advent asks us: What does it feel like to wait in the dark?
We wait and wonder. We worry. We cry. We speak out against injustice. We light our candles one by one. We sing hymns in community. We pray for our neighbors across the world.
Advent invites us to walk, not run. To slow down and listen to what the darkness can teach us. Walking in Advent can look like a slow reading of scripture, repeating one phrase over and over, sitting in silence, taking deep breaths, sitting with a friend in pain, baking bread to share with a neighbor, and lighting one candle each week.
During these next four weeks of Advent, walk, don’t run. Walk slowly knowing that at the end we will be met by Jesus’ beginning. Advent brings us to the depths of darkness so that when the light enters, we can do nothing else but be drawn into its beauty.
Walk, don’t run this Advent. For when we reach the days we are waiting for, when the gift of Christ comes to us, then, and only then, should we run towards the light never looking back.
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, MO. You can read more at her website or follow her work on Facebook.