This upcoming Sunday is the first week of Advent. How did this happen? It seems like it was just Advent, and now we’re here again. How can ordinary time move so quickly?
Growing up, the only celebration of Advent I remember is punching through the thin cardboard walls of the house-shaped calendars that hung on our wall so I could grab the piece of nasty chocolate that awaited me each morning. I had no understanding of Advent in any way that distinguished it from Christmas. Christmas was not a day or an event, but a season that started as soon as Thanksgiving was over and lasted until we rang in the new year.
Over the last few years, I’ve come to appreciate the unique place that the Advent season has for those shaped by the Christian faith. Our community at Kairos follows the Christian liturgical year from Advent through Pentecost (roughly December through May), and I’ve tried to live into the rhythm of each season as much as possible. But it’s a struggle, largely because Christmas is culturally (and spiritually) so powerful. It is easy (for me, at least) to get caught up in celebrating Christmas without taking time to reflect on why we so desperately need Christmas: the hopes, the fears, and the failures that create a chasm so vast that only Christmas can fill. I’ve found that I miss the power of Christmas if I don’t take time to realize why I need Christmas.
The season of Advent is not the Christmas season (just as Lent is not Easter). Advent is the season that precedes Christmas. In the season of our lives, in the environments we inhabit, we fail to live as if the Christ Event has actually happened. Christ’s birth was a “once for all” event that actually happened, but we are a forgetful people and when we forget, we deny the new reality that dawned on the first Christmas morning. So Advent is the time of the year that Christmas (the coming of Christ) is anticipated and yearned for precisely because (in our lived experience) Christmas has not yet come.
So, Advent is a splash of cold water saying “Wake up, sleepers! I see you’ve forgotten that Christmas is real. You’ve got four weeks – to prepare, to anticipate, to yearn…to move to a place of being fully present for the arrival of your king.”
I’m a bit groggy right now, but I want to take time during Advent to wake up.