The Joy of Advent


A Reflection by Dean Shambaugh

It was getting late. We were most of the way through a two-hour rehearsal and people were getting tired, tripping over tempo changes, and making simple mistakes. There was only a dress rehearsal left before two concerts and we just weren’t gelling. The conductor looked at us and asked, “Do you have Sleigh Ride in your folders?” For band people, Sleigh Ride is like Stars and Stripes Forever, something you have played hundreds times in different settings and different keys but always with the same crowd-pleasing result. Sleigh Ride wasn’t on our list for the evening, but we pulled it out, started to play, and amidst the sounds of jingle bells, the cracking of a whip, and the neigh of a horse, we got our groove back. Smiles filled the room. Our confidence had returned. We knew who we were. We knew we were good. Best of all, we were having fun. In response to a video in which he and the Dalai Lama were shown laughing and giggling with each other, Bishop Tutu said, “it is our duty to be joyful.” The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, coming from the Latin word for joy. Symbolized by rose-colored pink rather than pseudo-penitential purple, this Sunday is meant to remind us that Advent is about preparing for something amazingly joyful – God breaking though the barriers of time and space to be with us and filling our world with light and love. Like those musicians, we who are getting ready for Christmas can sometimes find ourselves lost in tempo changes and start feeling a little overwhelmed by everything going on. Like them, we sometimes need a sleigh ride to get us back on track. May Advent be that moment for you.