“It’s the most wonderful time of the year”, it has been said. And in some ways, the saying rings true. We tend to eat a little better (or worse, depending on which way you look at it), see a little more beauty in the windows of stores and homes, and find ourselves thoughtlessly humming or singing along to tunes learned long ago. There is a nostalgia, an easy comfort, that comes amidst the holidays at year’s end, and we welcomingly absorb the smells, tastes, sights and sounds of the season.
There is, however, a sadness and darkness lurking beneath the traditions and holly jolly attitudes that we put on. It manifests as anxiety, as frustration, and as a tiresome hurriedness. We must do this, make this, give this, buy this, watch this, visit this; the sheer amount of pressure we put on ourselves during the holiday season is astonishing.
This is especially true when we consider the meaning of Advent, the time on the Church calendar that occupies the four Sundays preceding Christmas. Advent is meant to slow our busyness by waiting, waiting patiently for the coming of the Lord there in the city of David some two thousand years ago. Advent, this time, is meant to make us reflect on how Christ came: as a babe, unable to be born under even remotely normal circumstances by even 1st Century standards. Advent is meant to make us reflect on when Christ came: at the end of the Silent years, centuries of no known revelation from God and then suddenly, the Word of God made flesh. Advent is meant to make us reflect on why Christ came: to rescue us miserable offenders from the death sting of sin and the curse of the law. Advent is a time to ponder, to wonder in awe, to collect our thoughts, to prepare Him room, and to wait, patiently.
This attempt to patiently wait will pull against every fiber of our beings in our current climate. As our schedules fill up with all kinds of activities in the name of celebration, our tolerance for patiently awaiting the true celebration – the day of Christ’s birth – wanes pitifully. As the old children’s song goes, “we can hardly stand the wait / please, Christmas, don’t be late”. But we adults succumb to this hurry up attitude just as bad, if not worse, than children.
But we must be patient with the right motivation. There is a real effort made by many to “savor” the season, to enjoy and get one’s money out of it, if you will. We were indeed meant to savor, to enjoy the gifts that come from the Giver. But we were not meant to “make it last,” or to wish everyday were Christmas Day. We are meant to savor the waiting of Christ to come in the manger just as we are meant to savor the waiting of Christ to come on a white horse. Advent is a time for the people of God to intentionally practice patience in the waiting for His return, with hope and confidence that He who came first meek and lowly will come again in glory and victory. “King of King, and Lord of Lords, and He shall reign forever and ever and ever.” Hallelujah! Even so, come Lord Jesus.