One day, Jesus left the crowds to be alone. – Luke 9:18 (NLT)
I think I’ve decided I like Lent better than Advent.
It’s not about the decorations. I love to decorate my house for Advent and Christmas (we get our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving). Advent and Christmas have better music than Lent. And, of course, all the candles and the increasing light despite the increasing darkness outside.
But Advent is too short. It is too busy. I feel the pressure to get to Christmas – both within and outside the Church. And while Advent is supposed to be about waiting and preparing ourselves with the coming of Christ (in both the form of a babe and as the King of Glory), our Advent waiting is not that of an expectant mother. Instead, it is as if we are observers. We aren’t scared out of our wits by the heavenly host. We don’t actually go through the labor pains and messiness of birth. We show up when the baby has already been cleaned up and sleeping quietly.
Maybe Advent is for extroverts and Lent is for introverts. Because in Lent, there is no baby (or gifts). Instead we contemplate our mortality. There is no increasing light, but a march towards Tenebrae. Instead of singing about our hope of Immanuel, we confess our sins and bury the Alleluia.
Lent is messy and uncomfortable with its hard teachings, scheming, betrayal, and violent death. Yes, we can go from Palm Sunday to Easter without wading through Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday, but at least those days are there before we get to the celebration on Easter. We have space to sit with death and lost hope.
Lent provides the opportunity to slow down. There is time for reflection because other than “spring holiday candy,” the world does not really care to join the Church in a season of addressing our mortality and our sin. And although I will soon be writing worship services for both Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday at the same time, right now, I can be present on this journey to the cross with Jesus.
Lent requires times of solitude and reflection – time for sitting in the dark. May we all find time to leave the crowds to be alone with Jesus this Lenten season.