The holiday season is upon us, and as we recover from our Thanksgiving abundance and feasting, let’s look forward past the work that fall brings and once again take pause to revel in the wonders of Advent.
The word “Advent” means ‘coming’, or ‘arriva’’, and it is a time to prepare ourselves for Christ’s arrival on Christmas. And although Advent is not part of the Christmas season as the church defines it, our human hearts just can’t wait. So we enjoy Christmas carols, decorations, Christmas baking traditions and all kinds of things because we want to bring Christmas as close as possible to our hearts and our loved ones for as long as we can.
But that’s not what Advent was intended to be. It is a season for solemn, quiet reflection, less penitential than Lent, but in order to enter into the fullness of Christmas, we must figure out how to reflect on our own hearts and our own lives. Think of it: the meaning of Christ’s coming as God became one of us – to be with us – to experience what it’s like to be us – and to enter into our human-ness, so that we could also enter into God’s divinity through Christ’s living example and leaving behind the Holy Spirit to help us along when we can’t do it all ourselves.
And it’s good to admit that around all the hubbub of activities that we cannot do it all ourselves. Advent is a time for us to drop the expectations of holiday perfection and enter into the expectations of God’s presence. A presence that only asks that we begin to take seriously what we do in daily life, and how we use Christ’s presence and Spirit in our hearts to live lives more fully. “What does the Lord require of us”, asks the Bible, “but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God”.
The Bible doesn’t require us to get everyone the presents they expect. There is no magic happiness formula which can be gotten from getting presents. I once heard that presents are something that you get someone because they want that something; gifts are something that you give to someone because it’s what you want to give them. Perhaps that’s why God’s grace and intangible presence, and those things that we treasure in our hearts and desire for – justice, mercy, kindness, peace, and love – are referred to as “gifts” from God.
So as we approach another December and another season of Joy, Peace, Love, and Hope – the Sunday themes of Advent – are we expectant and preparing, thinking about what gifts we can give to those who truly are in need of God’s graces that we have to share? Or are we wrapped up in the presents of the present, extending Christmas as a kind of 2-3 week tailgate party but which has little to do with Christ?
Which season do you celebrate? Which season would you rather have in your life?
What’s holding you back? Give as your heart directs, and come see me if you have any questions. Or better yet, ask God. God is always there, whereas I’m only in the office 2 days a week. I much prefer talking to the One who doesn’t have office hours and is always open.
Merry Christmas to you all, and hope to see each of you at least once this December.