Bruschetta, seen here on two of my own plates, is one of my favorite dishes. I always try to keep good bread, tomatoes, basil, a hard cheese, garlic and some olive oil and balsamic vinegar in the house for a bruschetta attack. With a glass of wine it is, like a good risotto – the perfect dinner. If you can fry the bread in butter and garlic first….well, all the better.
Advent is a time for such meals. We simplify without sacrificing goodness. Always eat good food if possible. pears and blue chess can replace the garlic and tomatoes if you want a twist. Pears and blue saga cheese in brown butter and sage on gingerbread pancakes is a dessert version. Um, I mean, a boy’s gotta eat.
Simple does not need to mean dull or lifeless. Simple does not even mean cheap. Simple means simple.
Prayer, especially listening prayer, has often been metaphorically described as the process by which we quiet the noise in order to hear God the way an orchestra conductor quiets an orchestra so that the flute solo can be heard.
When our scriptures encourage us to be in the world but not of the world, they do not mean “world” as in “the planet” or even as in “our lives.” For the writers of our holy scriptures “the world” means “unfocused noise.” Advent is not a time for abstinence, but a time for simplicity and there is a big difference. Advent is a time to be awake the way a faun listens in the woods or a doctor listens to a heartbeat through a stethoscope. It is a season in which to be very attentive to saying “no” gently and kindly to invitations. It is a time to make gifts instead of shopping. It is a time to eat simple foods and it is definitely a time to be careful about the people with whom you spend your time.
To quiet our lives in such a way that we can be fully awake to what is around us – waiting and longing for Jesus to come – we simplify. That is what we do in Advent. It is a huge sacrifice to Americans. For those for whom noise is an addiction or an anesthetic, simplicity is very, very hard. If AA meetings were set up for busy, distracted people, (distracted anonymous – da) we would need to have them in football stadiums.
But anything worth doing is hard work. “Work hard and play hard or go home.” That’s my motto. Well, one of them. Another is “Simplify – if you have the courage.”