One of those (to me) annoying “Christmas” songs we hear on the radio a lot this time of year is “We all need a little Christmas, right this very minute.” To which I want to respond, what we all need is a little Advent. Not because I am channeling my inner Scrooge and am anti-Christmas, far from it. But because what we desperately need before we can greet the coming of the Christ into the world, into our hearts and lives, is a time of reflection and preparation. A time of waiting, examining our lives as individuals and our common life together, and making room within us for God to be born again.
The roots of Advent, as Gayle Boss writes in All Creation Waits, run deep under the Christian church. They are found in the earth and its seasons. In the northern hemisphere, Advent happened after the harvest had been brought in and after the people have heaved a sigh of relief, knowing that their labor had paid off and they had food for the winter. Feast! Was their cry. And yet, and yet, the days were getting shorter and shorter. Darkness seemed to settle in and the warmth of the sun faded from the land. They became anxious, their bodies asking whether the sun and warmth would return. They were reminded how little of life was in their control.
And so, in Advent, we are reminded in our readings in church how little we control, we are reminded that, at some time unknown, the ebb and flow of life will end. And in the middle of this season of darkness, when it would be so easy to feel hopeless, the church raises its voice and sings “O Come O Come Emmanuel”. The church proclaims the One who came, comes now, and is coming. We proclaim the One who is with us in darkness and in death, the One who is new beginning, who is light and life. The One who is God’s response to a world of suffering, the One who is God’s justice, love, and mercy, enfleshed and loose in the world.
My Advent prayer for you is a season of holy reflection, of sure and certain hope in the darkness. And may each of you, having prepared yourself as a home for the Christ child, greet the light of Christ’s dawning with deep abiding joy.