Compared to Easter, Christmas is in a distant second place as an important Christian holy day. But that’s not the way I remember it as a child. Then Easter was a boring imitation of Christmas with a few decorations, a basket of candy that did not come close to the Halloween take of a few months earlier, and a lame Easter egg hunt that I never was good at because my little sisters got too much help from our parents. Getting ready for Easter involved waiting through Lent, but since Easter held no special anticipatory glee for me, the idea of Lent was irrelevant. How all that related to the Feast of the Resurrection was a mystery to me. In fact the whole idea of resurrection was a mystery. I had some vague idea that it was a good thing that Jesus was really alive, but that was about it.
Now Christmas, that was another matter altogether. Waiting for Christmas was a giddy affair of hardly contained anticipation egged on by hours spent buried in the plump toy section of an enormous Sears Roebuck catalogue. Of course I knew that Christmas was about the birth of Jesus, but the Sears catalogue won out over bible stories as preferred reading. The season of Advent helped. No matter how anxiously eager I was for Christmas to come, it could not be hurried. Marking off the days and weeks with an advent calendar measured the incredibly slow process of time. Pictures behind the little doors kept reminding me that Jesus was the focus of it all. Bible stories, second place though they were to Sears, were read over and over so that I had a clear understanding of Mary and Joseph, donkeys and shepherds, wise men and stars, and a reasonably decent idea of how important it was for Jesus to be born. Moreover, in spite of my avaricious delight in Santa, other Christmas stories helped me understand that this special day was not about me, and that somehow I was involved with extending the enduring work of Jesus into lives other than mine (although it did not occur to me that that might include the lives of my little sisters).
Advent was a childhood symbol of waiting for wonders that could not be hurried. How many other advents are there in one’s life? Waiting to grow up; graduate from school; get married; get a job; become successful in a career; what else? Can the Christian Advent inform these other advents? Can waiting become as important as getting? Can our waiting become a time of learning that it’s not just about us, and that we have something to do for each other and for all as we wait? Can all of our advents, and this particular Advent, lead us from self-centered childish anticipation to the mature recognition of what we are waiting for?