Turn Advent Into An Adventure

Jack Levison, the WJA Power Chair of Old Testament at SMU, writes about Advent being a good time to try new thingsā€”to create new adventures than Advent?

By Jack Levison

John R. (Jack) Levison
Jack Levison

It’s a dreary, overcast mid-forties kind of day in New York City (Queens, really). I’m sitting in dreary terminal B of LaGuardia Airport, next to a two-tone grey garbage pail (a guy just dropped a holiday styrofoam cup in it). The carpet squares are grey. The tarmac is grey. The terminal’s steel skeleton is grey. The windows are grey. The seats are grey.

On one of those grey seats, someone leaves parts of a Sunday New York Times, a small treasure, like finding a dime on the sidewalk. I bend over and pick them up and find an article called, Why Trying New Things Is So Hard To Do.

The author tells me that he won’t switch from Diet Coke even though he’s never had a cheap generic diet cola. He tells me, too, that London commuters forced by a strike to take another route for two days—and ending up saving an average of seven minutes—go back to their normal, longer routine after the strike is over.

This gets me thinking: today is the beginning of Advent. What better time to try new things—to create new adventures than Advent?

In and of itself, Advent marks many of those unsuitably odd-fitting days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’re typically grey days. The colorful autumn leaves are gone, and crisp winter days aren’t quite upon us.

But the weather for us non-Floridians and non-SoCal types shouldn’t fool us. The thick grey is actually the perfect backdrop for a spark of light, a glimmer of warmth, an ounce of adventure.

Advent, in fact, began with an adventure, when Joseph and a very pregnant Mary hopped on a donkey and headed to Bethlehem, only to find the inn full. That was quite an adventure.

What if Christians were to turn Advent into an Adventure—or a series of small adventures?

This is what I mean.

When you go for a walk or a drive, imagine a different route. Vary your routine. Look for something different. Who knows what you may come across or whom you may come upon on that different route? Turn Advent into an Adventure.

When you make a phone call or write a text, imagine a different person you might call. Think of someone you haven’t talked to for ages, maybe someone alone, bereaved, someone in a funk of grey, and call them. Turn Advent into an Adventure.

When you buy a present, imagine a different sort of recipient—someone to surprise, someone outside the normal compass of your family and friends. During a recent visit to Perkins School of Theology at SMU, where I teach, Anne Lamott told us to fill plastic sandwich bags with color pencils, index cards, and pencil sharpeners from the Dollar Store. (Homeless people can’t get hold of pencil sharpeners easily.) Or do what my family sometimes has done: fill sandwich bags with small water bottles, granola bars, and a tootsie roll pop. Or, when you’re shopping, grab a handful of socks at Walmart or Costco or Amazon, and stash them in your backpack or glove compartment to give away. (Or use the links I just gave you to buy them!) Then, rather than averting your eyes or leaving the window rolled up, look people in the eye and hand them a simple gift. In short, turn Advent into an Adventure.

I shouldn’t have to tell you this, of course, except that, as that New York Times article left on the empty grey seat in LaGuardia Airport said, trying something new is hard to do.

What better time for an adventure—taking a different route, making a different call, or giving a different sort of gift—than Advent, which remembers the precarious journey of a peasant couple, who were dependent on an innkeeper’s generosity for a place to spend the night?