Advent is upon us. What does it mean? For many it’s a signal to begin hyperventilating anxiety about the strain of the holidays on an already strained budget, the expectations and disappointments sure to come with gifts given and received, and parties that are supposed to be fun. Amidst joy filled decorating, eager anticipation in children’s eyes, and the comfort of reunited families, some are lonely, grieving, and scared. Confusing, isn’t it?
Advent is upon us. What does it mean? It’s a time to prepare in heart and mind to receive once more God’s presence in our lives through the most intimate way possible: the Word of God made flesh in a baby born of Mary. It happened only once a long time ago, but you and I need the annual renewal of the wonder of it. We need it to be reminded that it’s not we who must struggle to reach up to God, but God who has reached down to us in humble, trusting vulnerability.
The Holiday Season has other intentions. After all, it’s rooted in pagan celebrations of the new year, and let’s admit it, it’s fun to engage in at least a bit of it. If we’re honest, there’s a little pagan blood in each of us. But Advent can be an effective inoculation against too much. Advent can slow us down, redirect our attention to Jesus, remind us that the enduring gift of life is ours to have for all eternity. Advent can calm our fears, ease our anxieties, and hush the noise so we can hear the angels sing. What we have, we have. What we don’t have, we don’t have. Let it be. What we need is important. What we want is not. What we most need and want is love that accepts us as we are. We can give love like that, even to those we don’t much like. We can receive it, even from those we’re not fond of. We have received it freely from God, and can give it freely in Christ’s name. Advent is a time to work on it.