Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” It’s the season of actively waiting and preparing for Jesus to be born, for God’s Word made flesh to come into the world.  

The Christian year begins with the season of Advent, and this way of beginning is itself significant. You might think the year would begin with the trumpets of Easter, or the softness of Christmas Eve, or the fires of Pentecost – but on the contrary, we begin in the shadows of despair, war, sorrow, and hate.  For it’s precisely there that the God of grace will arrive, and accordingly, it’s precisely there that God’s church is called to light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love.

Maya Angelou is an Advent poet extraordinaire, in the sense that she often stands in the shadows and writes of the light. She boldly insists on blessedness and freedom, even as she confronts – with both candor and wit – the pain and injustice of the world.

In this Advent devotional, we let scripture and Angelou’s poetry be our guides, together pointing us toward weekly practices that can help deepen and enrich our experience of the season – a perfect way to prepare for the hope, peace, joy, and love of Christmas day.

So grab your favorite Bible and Angelou’s The Complete Poetry (the poems can also be found online). Carve out some space and time for reflection, and remember that, for Angelou, “I” often means “we.” Night has fallen, and God is coming. The question is whether we’ll have the presence of mind and heart to notice, and to rejoice – and sing – when morning comes.