In cultural Christmas, the definition of Advent is “busy.” But the literal definition of the word “Adventus” means, “Visit.” More accurately, it means the time before a visitor arrives. In traditional Christian practice, Advent is a season that can most easily be compared to the season of Lent. It is supposed to be a season of preparation for the miracle that is, Emmanuel, God with us.
I try to remind myself of this every year, as the culture that is around us is swirled with busyness and distraction. It also tends to swirl with anger, as we place unrealistic expectations on this season due to countless hours of movies and music that flood our lives, and I LIKE these movies!
One resource that helps me and has always helped me since I first read it, is a small little book by the environmental writer Bill McKibben called, Hundred Dollar Holiday. For all of my fellow trivia nerds, this is a great resource about Christmas, but it also contains a redefinition of the season that I think falls more in line with the definition of Advent. We have a tendency to want to skip the hard parts of the Christian Calendar and get to the good stuff. We want to skip Advent so we can get to Christmas Eve and see the kids in bathrobes and the sanctuary lit with candles. We want to skip Lent so we can hear the trumpets on Easter morning. We don’t want to pause on Good Friday. Just like we want to skip past the hard stuff of faith to get to the good stuff of blessings and miracles. Hard stuff like sacrificial giving, selflessness and giving up our ego, letting go of control, and humility. What the seasons before the big celebrations teach us is that you have to go on the journey before you get to the destination, and there are powerful lessons to be learned along the way that make the destination even more miraculous.
I am not calling for self-flagellation or anything like that. I simply hope for all of us to experience the miracle of Emmanuel in a powerful way this season. And so, the question I am asking myself and is also the theme of my Advent sermon series is, if I knew Jesus was coming to visit my family at my house, what would I do to get ready for the visit? We are looking at the “Visitation” stories from Luke’s gospel as our guide, when Angels visit and bring news to Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zachariah. I pray for a good season of Advent.