Except for a week or two at church camp, I did not go to sleepover camp as a child. During what would have been my prime camping years, it wasn’t yet part of my family culture. Later on, my family worked its way and its means around to the notion and I’m glad my younger brother and sister got to breathe in balsam and forge friendships lakeside in New Hampshire. Camp remains a foundational experience for them. Please don’t misunderstand. I don’t feel deprived. As an oldest child, I had a different (and equally rich) set of experiences.
Still, I would have told you at the time that my favorite movie was one set at summer camp–The Parent Trap (with Hayley not Lindsay). And I listened with intense fascination to the stories a neighborhood friend told when she got home from her month away at camp. I especially liked to hear about “Christmas In July”—a week when cabin mates became Secret Santas and the dining hall twinkled with Christmas lights.
I still think about Christmas in July. Sometimes I wish we could do Advent in July. I might be better at the spiritual discipline invoked by Advent during the summer than I am in December. Advent is the season of waiting and I don’t wait well in December. Give me a present early and I’m likely to sneak a peek. I over identify with Mary and want her to hurry up and get past labor and delivery so she can hold that sweet little baby in her arms. Liturgically speaking, I am not one of those ministers with strict Advent sensibilities. Don’t tell the Advent police, but in Hancock we cheat. We sing Christmas carols well before Christmas Eve. One simple reason—lots of our folks travel to be with family on and after Christmas and not to sing carols before they go means not to sing them at all with the people who are part of our family of faith.
But I don’t want to lose out on the spiritual discipline of waiting. I’m just more attuned to waiting in the summer. Maybe the lengthy days help. Everything stretches out and elongates in the summer. Conversations. Visits. Projects. My patience with a God who is only partially revealed.
This summer my waiting is focused on a certain plant in my garden. Orphaned at a church plant sale last year, it was an ugly, papery, bulbous thing tagged with a set of finicky instructions. I coaxed a little greenery out of it last year, but nothing more. I waited. I put it in a heavy pot and lugged it around all winter, keeping it away from cold drafts and curious dogs. I waited some more.
But the plant seems to be blossoming this summer And yesterday I got to see one in full bloom in a garden in Cambridge. A prophetic Agapanthus. And what do you know? It looks like my plant will be wearing blue. Mary’s color. One of the colors of Advent.
We are all waiting for something. To be waiting is to be alive. Or as Joan Chittister puts it: “Waiting is an education. It tells us who we really are and how we really go about the great adventure of life.”