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In the world of education, most of us find the three weeks that sit between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks to be some of the most lively, busy, and demanding days in the entire year. When the first Sunday of Advent comes along, the countdown officially begins, and we press our faces against the glass of time to sneak a peek at the greatest wonder the world has ever known: God became man. For us, the familiar pastoral scene of shepherds and angels, a manger and a virgin mother, speak to us from the distant halls of history and tradition for over 2000 years. Maybe that’s why it’s easy to forget what it must have been like for our forefathers, our older brothers and sisters, to have had to look through that dark glass forward to a mystery not yet revealed. Take the same distance backwards from the birth of Jesus and you land somewhere around the time of Abraham. Do that a couple more times, and you’re pretty close to the original promise of salvation that God made to Adam and Eve after Satan deceived them into sin and death. For centuries, God sent His prophets to reaffirm His promise that one day the Seed of the woman, Eve, would crush the Devil under His feet. He sent word to Noah, to Abraham, to Jacob, to Moses, to David, to Isaiah, and to many others. Finally He sent word to Malachi, the last prophet whose words are recorded in the Old Testament, and suddenly everything went silent. For 400 years no word was uttered from on high, and God’s people could do nothing but wait, and listen, and watch, and hope. “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant,” said God in His final farewell for centuries (Mal. 4:4a). “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (Mal. 4:5-6).

Listening in silence is a lot harder than we think. We’re certainly not trained to it these days. Everywhere we turn, sound fills our ears: music, podcasts, traffic, and more. One of the teacher’s best but most challenging tools (and one of the student’s most dreaded fears) is the “awkward silence,” the pause that seems endless. Left to our own thoughts in silence, all distractions and diversions aside, we find ourselves confronted with our scariest foe: our broken selves. But God offers incredible beauty in the silence, a space which only He can properly fill. When life seems the most intense, as Elijah experienced, God is not in the fierce wind, the devastating earthquake, nor the searing fire, but in the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11-13). When centuries of oppression and warfare and grief go by without a deliverer, God comes to earth, breaking the silence with a tiny baby’s cry. That silent night ushered in God’s loudest proclamation in the birth of His Son. Following the opening of the seventh seal in the Book of Revelation, following incredible songs of praise, demonstrations of judgment, and magnificent displays of worship, heaven goes silent for about half an hour (Rev. 8:1). Even Jesus kept silent until the right moment, not answering His accusers except by His Father’s will (Matt. 26:63). Over and over again in the Scriptures, God follows and fills true silence with true glory and magnificence. He has a way of getting our attention and then knocking our proverbial socks off.

Advent gives us an opportunity to practice two (sometimes) competing virtues: silence and celebration, listening and preparing. These aren’t antithetical. Christmas is coming, and it’s well worth celebrating with all our might (more on that in a future Hobbit Hole). But the lead-up also calls us to sit still and listen, preparing not just our presents but also our perspectives and hearts. Perhaps Jesus had moments like this in mind at the home of His friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42)

It’s all too easy to be all Martha and no Mary during this time; imagine finding time to slow down right when things are at their busiest. Listening at the feet of Jesus, remembering why we prepare to celebrate in the first place, that is a good part that will not be taken away from us.

Thank you also to those who joined us prior to Thanksgiving for two great events: Service Day and Parent Education Night. We couldn’t have done it without the many parent volunteers who helped our students go out into the community to bless others with their hearts and hands. And the conversation during Parent Education Night was encouraging and engaging. It was a delight to be with you all. I look forward to the next one and hope to see even more faces join us.

May the Lord bless you and your family in this Advent stretch with serene silence, serious celebration, and soul-sustaining songs of Christ our God and King! Thank you for blessing us at CCA!

In Christ,
Bill Stutzman