The Advent Writings, Day 4: Adsonare

Adsonare: respond, reply; sound in accompaniment; sing as an accompaniment.
(Source: William Whittaker’s Words)
Michael Card’s song “Immanuel” is a favorite of mine, and not just in the Advent season. In particular, the words of the last verse:
“So what will be your answer? Will you hear the call – of Him who did not spare His Son, but gave Him for us all?”
In the midst of the fun and fuzzy feelings of the holidays, I’m thinking about my response. Not just today, but when Advent is a memory, when everything Christmas has been stuffed back into the boxes and put up in the attic, awaiting its next glimpse of freedom in 2012, and when the Christmas Favorites playlist isn’t heard for a year or so on the ol’ iPod.
When the stage is bare, the lights are off, and the audience has left the theatre, what is left? How do I respond?
Vicki has mentioned this to me after playing in a pit orchestra for a musical, and in our lives as musicians we’ve experienced this many times: You work together as a group, preparing and polishing the concert (show, recital, play, etc). Many, many hours spent together with the common goal of making the thing as good as you possibly can. Practicing, examining, rehearsing, tweaking, more practicing, all leading up to (at worst) one or (at best) multiple performances. But even in a week-long run, the dreaded closing night finally comes…
Then what?
There’s a feeling of emptiness. Loneliness. Many hands working to a common goal, executed with style and love, and over in the blink of an eye. Those united now withdraw as individual parts, never to come together again in quite that same way. If there’s not another gig on the books, another show to get into, another goal to practice for, then it all ends. Exit, stage right, blackout.
And it’s a terribly dark feeling.
Did you ever wonder why musicians put up with lugging all that equipment, taking it over hill and dale, setting it up, all to play for an hour or two, then to take it all apart and lug it all out again? Did you ever ponder why someone involved in theatre seems to always be either getting ready for a show to open, or auditioning for the next one?
Because the silence between gigs can drive you insane. The whole point of the performing arts is to PERFORM. There’s nothing fun or glamorous about practicing by yourself – it’s necessary, but not fun. It can be satisfying to see your skills improve, but not fun. (At least it isn’t to me – your mileage may vary…) It IS fun to practice with others – the unity of working together and the surprises that come when a group of unique people bring their individual gifts to the table makes for a lot of joy. But then taking that preparation, that common effort, and launching it out there for an audience to (hopefully) appreciate? There’s a rush no energy drink can come close to.
And then it ends.
When’s the next one? (Not soon enough.) What do we work on now? (Nothing for the moment.) When will we hang out together again and work together again and have this experience again? (Maybe soon, maybe later, maybe never.)
What do I do now? How do I respond when it all ends?
Advent – preparation for the coming of the King. Christmas – the King arrives.
And then? The Christmas costumes are packed away (after laundering, of course), the tree and the star and the shiny bits are carefully boxed up, the memory of the special goodies starts to fade. But the fruitcake remains. With a half life of 10,000 years.
We’ve celebrated with a common goal. We’ve gathered over the Sundays of Advent, lighting the Advent wreath all the way up to the final candle. We’ve been to the concerts, the pageants, the programs, the movies. We’ve seen the ghosts, learned the lessons, laughed and smiled as a heart is warmed to the message of Christmas. We’ve given and received. And then the end. How do we respond to these days of celebration when the party comes to a close?
What about those of us who had another knot in a string of holiday wreckage? Where the joy is simply salt in an open wound? Where the brightness of the season simply casts our personal hell into sharper relief? When the over-indulgent expectations of the “perfect” Christmas push us further down the road of hopelessness every year?
Don’t get so lost in the brightness that you forget about the darkness. It’s waiting out there, just beyond the lights. When the warm glow of Christmas fades, it sees that its time has come.
The holiday that I simply have no use for is New Year’s Eve. Never have, never will. It’s the final curtain, the ending of the season of light. It stands at the door of the long cold winter, bearing the message, “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”
(Was that a little overdramatic? Sorry… Although I think it says something profound that the driving force behind New Year’s Eve is working hard to make sure you can’t remember it the next day.)
I’ve occasionally had a good New Year’s Eve – actually we had a whole string of them years ago celebrating with family and friends, until the kids had the nerve to grow up and put a slamming halt to the whole shebang. I’ve forgiven them for it, but only a little. Maybe.
When you stand on the threshold of New Year’s Eve, all you can see is a dark and icy January waiting. I suspect that it looks that way even in Florida or Arizona or somewhere else warm and sunny, but I’ve yet to test that theory. (For the record, I’d really like to, sometime.) It’s like the letdown after the big celebration. Not even the Rose Parade can help – it just prolongs the agony. (Especially if nobody you care about made it into any of the bowl games.) It’s a bandage over a sucking chest wound – a nice thought, but useless.
I once spent an entire Rose Bowl in front of the TV with my dad as he tried to teach me how to knit. I made a lovely long… um… thing. Yeah, I never quite got the hang of it, unlike my dad who could both knit and crochet quite well. Dang. That has nothing to do with the matter at hand, just a cute little family portrait. Think of it as my holiday gift to you!
(“Ok, Mister Ray Of Sunshine, thanks for this deep pit of gloom. Got a ladder now, or are you leaving me down here to rot?”)
The great hope, the great joy, the great news is that it doesn’t end! We celebrate just a part of the story in Advent – the beginning of this chapter. The story began before time, when the Word spun the world out of darkness. The story continued when the Word was a promise that became a covenant to a people. Then we come to the chapter that could be titled, “The Word became flesh…” It’s a chapter filled with glory and light and song and appearances and beginnings.
But it’s not the ending chapter.
No need for sadness or emptiness or loneliness. It’s not time to close the book – this wasn’t the last chapter. There is much more to read, many more things to consider, stories to amaze and instruct, to encourage and rebuke. The story goes on.
“So what will be your answer? Will you hear the call – of Him who did not spare His Son, but gave Him for us all?”
Take the light of this Advent chapter, wrap it all around you, take a deep breath, and jump into the new year. We’re not leaving anything behind, rather we’re taking it all with us. I can choose to respond to the story by walking with the Storyteller, awake and mindful, watching and listening to Him, to see where He will spin the story next. I can walk in wide-eyed wonder into the adventure of each day. There will be dark days and days filled with incredible light. Days of hard battles and days of unspeakable joy. Just like any good story, there will be conflicts and triumphs, there will be times when you want to yell at the book and throw it out the window, and there will be times when you simply can’t put it down – you HAVE to know what happens next.
Perhaps the best response to the season of light is joy and anticipation, filled with wonder as the story continues to unfold, and we see ourselves as a part of it. The story doesn’t end, not yet. And neither does the wonder…
Adsonare: respond, reply; sound in accompaniment; sing as an accompaniment.
“The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
Luke 2:20 (TNIV)

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