- Sonya Leigh Anderson
One of my current writing projects is Bible curriculum for Montessori students. My college best friend, Michelle, is the director of several schools, and a trainer of Christian Montessorians worldwide. When my boys were young, they attended Michelle’s Hand-in-Hand, and I was on staff as one of her teachers. And now, here we are, full circle.
I’m writing the curriculum text, but an artist named Gil is the real genius. A year ago Gil and his wife, Kathryn, took a step of faith not unlike Abram and Sarai, moving from Texas to a college campus in Bloomington, Minnesota to create The Red Thread. Like all things Montessori, the artful materials are the real teaching tools, and the “text” is a mere suggestion. That said, I consider it a privilege to play a small role in Michelle’s dream to share the Bible’s stories with children and teachers around the globe.
Last week I worked on Isaiah’s Story. Sixty-six chapters of God’s messages to his people through this “major prophet”—and my task is to boil it down to a meaningful story for kids. Fortunately, God gave Isaiah some pretty great word pictures, along with a somewhat straightforward message. You’re in a whole lot of trouble, but help is on the way. Isaiah’s story is judgement, and hope.
I often think of Isaiah during the season of Advent. His prophecy shapes the “Christmas” narratives. Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14). And Matthew tells us: All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23).
Advent means “coming.” It is a season of waiting. But not just any waiting. During Advent we wait with HOPE.
The day before Thanksgiving, my husband woke with a fever, and for three straight days he was as out of commission as I’ve ever seen him. He did manage to drive himself to the clinic for COVID testing before taking to his bed. Our holiday plans, already bare-bones, were effectively cancelled. (One son, who’d had the virus a month prior, stuck around to keep Mom company during the quiet vigil.) And we waited. We waited for test results. And I waited for my own symptoms. I had (no doubt about it) been exposed.
The test came back negative. And I (six days later) am not yet sick. Not what we’d expected, and (likely) not the full story.
So we’re waiting still…
The waiting of 2020 has been like a bad movie. Nils and I discussed this over leftover turkey (plenty for two). Dad had perked up enough to watch a war movie—we could hear gunfire from the bedroom—and no matter how many awards it’s won the best thing about a war movie is when it’s over. My son and I shared these sentiments, helping ourselves to one last piece of apple pie.
We just want THIS to be over. This pandemic. This election. This isolation. This nonstop tension. THIS. 2020.
So we wait.
But Advent waiting is different. We are not waiting for the other shoe to drop. This waiting is more like a child’s anticipation of Christmas. And maybe this is what it is to have childlike faith. We enter the story—giddy expectation—heart set on a fairytale ending. We wait with hope.
Advent invites us to enter again into the fulfilled prophecy of the birth of Jesus. And to remember. A nation waiting for the Messiah to come to their rescue, and when he arrived, he was not at all what anyone expected. But he was so much more, and so much better.
And Advent invites us to enter into a story still unfolding. Prophecy, and the very words of Jesus, giving us reason to believe, He will come again.
Advent is a season of waiting, but it is also a season of preparation. Hearts prepared to receive a Savior. Ears tuned to hear his voice. Minds uncluttered, discerning his presence. Lives surrendered to follow a King.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.