If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you survived the holidays, and that no turkey fire, yam-related gastrointestinal distress, or overconsumption of pie took you out of circulation for longer than a few hours. I suppose that, given the state of the world, we should all be extremely grateful if our Thanksgiving gatherings didn’t devolve into name-calling, much less knife fights…goodness knows the potential for disastrous holiday meals is about as high as it has ever been.
I am thankful that Thanksgiving is over, but not because of food fights; everyone at my house was very pleasant, although one twin did refer to the other as a “bougie bitch” the morning after everyone else left, but I made them hug it out. No, I’m really grateful it’s over because now I can do something other than hunt and gather at the grocery store every day, which is all I’ve done for weeks.
I do understand that this is a Princess Problem, and it’s not like I’m out stalking a mastodon, but still….you know you’ve spent too much time food shopping when the “Avocados from Mexico!” jingle that plays near the register at the Chow Cat has been stuck in your head for over three weeks.
Now we’re in Advent (it started on November 27th, in case you were watching the Saints beat the Rams and missed it) and we’re meant to be engaging in some quiet, watchful waiting … setting aside time every day for reflection and prayer; finding stillness and inner quietude as we reflect upon the coming celebration of the birth of Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I really suck at Advent. I want to be good at it, but everytime I search for inner quietude, I either fall asleep, or lose control of my mind, which, like a toddler hopped up on pixie sticks, starts running off in ten different directions. Advent is a skill I do not possess.
I think our consumer culture makes it extremely difficult to find quiet moments. The holiday bombardment begins months in advance (the local Walmart began setting up the Christmas section in August) and by Thanksgiving, it has reached fever pitch. Every commercial is Christmas-related, the mailbox is bursting with flyers and catalogues, the kids are practicing for pageants and recitals, and our inboxes are flooded with SPECIAL OFFERS! and LAST MINUTE SALES! and LIMITED TIME ONLY DEALS! that do nothing more than make us feel like we need to be decorating the tree while basting the turkey.
[And don’t even get me started on holiday music on the radio. I would honestly rather drive a fork into my left eye than hear Carol of the Bells even once a year, much less in November. Seriously, if there was ever a song more perfectly suited to shopping with cranky quintuplet toddlers on Christmas Eve at Macy’s in Herald Square during a freak blizzard, it is this one. I think the Department of Defense considered using this song against the Vietcong, but it was specifically outlawed by the Geneva Convention as an inhumane form of torture. Don’t know what I’m talking about? You were warned. Mormon Choir Carol of the Bells.]
But I digress.
The point is, it’s Advent, and we’re not supposed to barrel through Advent at Mach 5 and arrive, exhausted and flat-broke, at Christmas morning.
The church teaches us that during Advent, we’re waiting for two things: the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and the return of God to this world. Here’s a little something that my friend DBH wrote some years ago that explains the dual nature of Advent nicely:
This holy season is all about two “comings,” or two advents.
The first advent took place at the birth of Jesus — that great event that we will celebrate in a few weeks. The other advent is the second coming of Jesus into this world. When that will be, only God knows.
Thus, Advent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the first coming, but are also waiting for something else that has not yet come. The first coming, the birth of Jesus, was a message to all humanity that God had entered this world through Jesus Christ , who, because he died on a cross and rose from the dead, will come again. Jesus’ victory over death is what Archbishop Cranmer refers to as “the life immortal,” and what Paul, in his second letter to the Thessalonians, describes as “eternal encouragement and good hope.” Because God loves you and me, God came into the world in the form of a human being. Because God loves you and me, God is going to come again.
And so we wait…. But because of Jesus Christ, we can wait with a great sense of hope and expectation.
I’m really bad at Advent, but I’m going to keep trying. The challenge will be to find that still place where all the noise falls away, and the trappings of Christmas disappear: that place of peace and solitude where the mind is one with the wonder that is Jesus Christ.
I’ll let you know how it goes!