It’s beginning to look a lot like…Advent! Ok, I know, that’s not how the song goes. Then again, I’m here in Alexandria and our temps will be in the 50’s for the next couple of weeks. Some of the atmospheric clues of the season are absent for me. Plus, finals are right around the corner. Between the weather and the school work, Advent’s season of preparation will take on a very different feel this year! Like the Magi, this Advent, I find myself looking for “signs”.
First, let me tell you a bit of what I’ve learned this first semester. First, I’ve learned that I’m what they call and “integrative” learner. I need to be able to take what I’ve read in the books and heard in my classes and then look for it in or make connections to the world around me. I was never fully prepared for the reality of seminary. Sure, I’d gone to graduate school before and knew the immensity of it. However, that time, I had one class per semester and the coursework was designed for working adults so the reading demands were manageable.
At seminary, with four classes, there typically is, required reading of between 500-1000 pages each week. There also can be an equivalent of supplemental reading. Classes, reading, and three chapel services each day plus any committee assignments. It was a bit overwhelming to get a handle on, at first. However, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned is to take time away from it in order to be reminded of its meaning.
Let me share a bit of my church history class to illustrate. We are currently moving through the Medieval and Renaissance periods of both the Eastern and Western Church. Our text (which soon will also be used by Dio FdL’s Deacon School) is Diarmaid MacCulloch’s nearly 1200 page “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years”. This week included approximately 100 pages from it plus two “primary source” readings including Thomas Kempis’ “The Imitation of Jesus Christ” and the anonymous satire, attributed as written by Desiderius Erasmus concerning Pope Julius II, Julius Excluded from Heaven. It was a LOT of reading and I was thankful when finished. Afterwards, the last thing I wanted to consider was to write a response paper (we have to choose two weeks to write from each quarter). We have termed the lectures for Church History as “sucking on an open firehose”; SO much information is shared in the course of one hour for which our assigned reading is merely supplementary. While taking notes on my laptop, the internet is also open in order to attach hyperlinks to my notes for additional research from lectures once class is over. Which brings me to my point, this week, my head swimming, I went to the National Gallery of Art where I’d heard there was a daily, guided tour of their Italian Renaissance art collection. There I learned from our guide that in the 1400’s, the mathematical basis for “perspective” introduced a new way to paint.
It turned art from a thousand years of icons and portraiture (focused on the individual) to scenes and story (individuals within a landscape). “Perspective” flipped the switch for me that tied everything together from the readings; a history of finding our place in the story OF and WITH Christ. Suddenly, I found myself truly anxious to write a response paper!
Which brings me back to Advent. This year, despite being surrounded by an abundance of Advent readings, music, and worship, I will need to be intentional in preparing my own heart for the celebration of Christ among us. Sure, I will be thankful when finals are behind me once again and to be home to celebrate Christmas with all of you. Yet, God desires that we each prepare a place in our hearts for Him. My hope and prayer is that we each take time from our work and busy-ness for “perspective”. This Advent may we each prepare our hearts for the full landscape of God’s plan for our lives and communities…to bring the Light to a world wrapped in darkness. The Magi were watching the skies long before the star that led them to Bethlehem appeared. Yes, Christmas is coming and I, for one, can’t wait!!
Keeping you all in my prayers and asking yours.
By His Love,