She asked me, "How does it go with your Advent preparations?" No one had ever asked me that question before. I cocked my eye, sensing a spiritual probing, and offered a guarded reply, "Fine."
To be fair to her and to justify her invasive question about my soul, I had just asked her, "How goes it with you... your life, I mean?" Turn-about is fair play.
In fact, our Advent preparations are going full speed ahead. They may not always be very spiritual but they are intense. Witness 75 Fox Chase Lane on a wintry day after sundown:
Call this scene "The Henry Kohlmann Inspiration." Think of the house on Jackson Road, Valley Stream, and the "rock" music. The profusion of colored lights in Henry K's honor were hung at the insistence and with the assistance of twins Henry and Robert, aided and abetted by their Mom, who, as long as we have known her, has eagerly celebrated the next holiday, no matter what the "next" is, including April Fool's Day. No, she has yet to hang up an orange sash on July 12, nor has she cooked up a bowl of cawl on March 1st. But her art decorates every birthday place setting; and the nutcrackers on the lawn, one blue and one green, are only her (and Robert's) most recent creative holiday artifact with which our closets are stuffed.
Not that the spiritual side has been neglected. Sunday Barbara and I sat in the mezzanine at the Bushnell's Belding auditorium and were enraptured by symphony and chorale collaborating on Bach's "The Christmas Oratorio," Cantatas 4, 5, & 6. The swirl of bagpipes may stir the soul, but the staccato of trumpets above the G clef lifts the soul clear to heaven, as they did for me in the closing chorale.
But what surprised and delighted me every bit as much as what I heard was what I read in the text in the program. I mean the intense inwardness of the musical meditation on Jesus' advent. To wit:
My Jesus is my shepherd, My Jesus is my life.
My Jesus has given himself to me, My Jesus shall evermore Hover before my eyes;
My Jesus is my joy, My Jesus restores heart and breast.
And I thought the gushing of Fanny Crosby was just a Nineteenth Century development! I'll have to tamp down my fear of faithful sentimentality. If it's good enough for the Psalmist, the Wesleys, and JSB, who is RWH to shy away from subjective expressions of one's love for Jesus.
Advent preparations? Go with me from the sublime to some sartorial silliness. Over the years I have accumulated a rack full of purple ties, the better to adorn dress shirts on the Sundays before Christmas. Of course, those who make and sell altar cloths and dossals have pushed in recent years for another color for Advent... to distinguish the season from Lent. The preferred color, according to C. M. Almy, is blue, not navy or robin's egg, but somewhere between. I don't think, however, that I am going to begin a new collection of ties in retirement to match liturgical innovators: I'll not be in any pulpit this or any foreseeable December.
If 'tis the season to be merry and holy and a trifle silly, 'tis also the season to be generous. We've not neglected that part of our preparations for the coming of the one whose apostle to Gentiles like me insisted that "God loves a cheerful giver." The newspaper deliverymen and the postman and pastor and Salvation Army bell-ringer, etc., have or will get their gratuities. Churches, five of them, are also on the hit list. Plus a local agency tutoring Hartford schoolchildren, on whose board I sit.
What with the grandchildren's electronic demands, there won't be much left in the checking account by December 25th.
But I do detect a serious omission in my Advent preparations, a gift for my beloved. I shall have to indulge in some serious meditation to divine the appropriate present for her for me to lay beneath the Christmas tree.
How does it go with my Advent preparations? Not bad at all, considering that Advent is only a week and a day old.