I’ll admit, Advent is one of my favorite liturgical seasons. Not only is it the Christian New Year, when our liturgical calendar starts anew, it’s a time of preparation and anticipation. Advent, like Lent, is meant to give Christians an experience–it’s supposed to recreate that time in world history when the world was in darkness, when it hadn’t yet seen Christ in the flesh, when humanity was still desperately waiting for God to make a big gesture and reconcile His people to Him for good.
Can you imagine what that felt like?
To live in physical and spiritual captivity?
To plead with God to finally come and aid His people?
To hope for it?
If you’re truly observing Advent, you can.
Celebrating Advent, to me, is kind of like re-watching “Titanic”–I know exactly how it ends, but it always makes me wonder what life would be like if everything had gone differently. What if Mary had said “No, thanks” to a scandalous virgin pregnancy? What if Joseph had bowed to societal shame and divorced Mary? What if Rose had made room for Jack on that door that was CLEARLY big enough for the both of them?!? That last one might bother me (and pretty much every one else in my generation) forever, but lucky for us, we know how the Jesus thing ended up.
So I put up a Christmas tree and string it with lights but I wait until Christmas Eve to decorate it. I listen to Christmas music; but I try to stick to things like “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” instead of “Silent Night” until it is the actual silent night in question. I drink egg nog and bake cookies, but I do it all with the thought in the back of my mind:
What would I be doing right now
if Christ had never come?
It’s a sobering thought. No cookies, first of all–that’s tragic. But even worse: no joy, no hope, no forgiveness of me or anyone else. It would be a desolate, cold and barren life. No wonder the Church placed Christmas in the middle of the winter; our physical landscape (at least in the Northern hemisphere) mirrors our inner spiritual landscape without Christ. Just as things get tough and the sun seems like it will never shine for very long again (or at all, if you’re at a high enough latitude) and the weather is raw and the plants are all dead….the Light of the World comes to us and gives us hope.
He comes to live and die with us for a time so that we can go and live with Him for the rest of eternity.
He would, given the chance, share the big door with us so we don’t freeze in the North Atlantic.
And Advent reminds us of all that.