I love this time of year. Yes, part of it is because of the music and lights, the smell of pine and the excitement of children. But more than that, it is the feeling of expectancy. Advent is a time of pregnant anticipation for Christians, when we begin our church year, and await the coming of Jesus. Hope seems to spring eternal in the glow of Advent candles and hymns that lift up prayers of "Come thou long expected Jesus" and "Come, O Come Emmanuel."
Why? What fills our hearts so full that we cannot help but smile? I suspect that it is the hope found in the birth of a poor child who came to show us a new way of being in relationship with ourselves, our community, and with God. In the darkness of winter, we are given a light that shines within our hearts, a truth that is inescapable - that we are beloved, so much so, that God wanted to be incarnate in Jesus to be in direct relationship with us.
So many lament the commercialism that erupts during this season, but I don't mind in the least. Retail stores in this economy are hurting, and that means jobs. But more than that, there is something magical about the music and decorations that seem to fill the world, if only for a little while, with a sense that there is more to life than cubicles, pagers, grades, or promotions. We become children again, gathering to watch a silly animated Rudolph on TV, or wearing a santa hat to the office. It is though for a moment we are able to step into one of those snow globes, to a different time or place. We reconnect with people through cards and calls, wish each other blessings, and even seem to step lighter.
Yes, there are pressures we place on ourselves, but it need not be that way. It is not the fault of retail stores, or Santa Claus, or any other commercial expression of the season if we find ourselves stressed. It is within each of us to say "no" to all of that, and "yes" to the warmth and joy. This is most difficult for those in distress, lonely, or who are grieving the loss of someone dear to them. This pain must be acknowledged and honored. But for any of you who are feeling this way, know that you are not alone, and that there are many who care for you, most especially The One who chose to be born into this world so that we might know that we are loved - all of us, and most especially those on the margins and those who are spiritually and emotionally wounded.
At this time of year, we are being asked to prepare ourselves for the coming of Jesus into our lives, for the incarnation of God among us. So how do we do this? We open our hearts, and let the feeling of anticipation overtake us. Like a child waiting for Santa Claus, we stop and look around, waiting in hope. We don't try to tell others how to embrace this time, but instead open our hearts so that we can embrace it ourselves. We become Mary, the Godbearer, the chosen, awaiting the new birth. We look at others as bearers of God too. Remembering the words of Mary "My soul doth magnify the Lord," we are to allow our souls to do the same, and to see God magnified in the souls of all others.
And slowly, day by day, we live into the moment when God entered this world as a poor child.
So go out and be Adventy! Live into the moment, and await the coming of Christ.