This is the time of year when people begin talking about getting into the “Christmas Spirit”. I must confess, I’m not in the Christmas spirit, but I think that it is okay, because now is not the time to be in the Christmas spirit, this is the time to be in the Advent spirit.
In my experience, Advent is a difficult season for many of us to celebrate (as is Lent, but that is a thought for another time). As can be seen in many areas of life, we want things faster and more efficient. We want definitions to words by just clicking on them rather than looking them up in a dictionary. We want synonyms for words by clicking on them rather than using an actual thesaurus. We want to write papers based on sources solely in the internet rather than going to a library to research. If we want music, we simply turn it on. If we want to follow a thought, we do it immediately. There is no need to wait for anything anymore with smartphones, broadband internet access, and hand-held mp3 players, and various other gadgets that we busy our lives with. I must confess, that I also fall into this, and I find waiting difficult as well.
Advent is not always easy to celebrate because it is a season of waiting. Who wants to wait during Advent when we can jump right to Christmas now? There are radio stations playing Christmas songs 24/7 right now. I have stacks of Christmas music that I can listen to. I can read any of the birth narratives in the Bible whenever I want. While none of these things are bad, there is something to say for a fuller experience of Advent.
While I can jump right to Christmas, the one thing that I cannot do is jump to the Parousia. Celebrating Advent is not an exercise in self-denial, celebrating Advent is an exercise in life! The song for Advent is “O come O come Emmanuel” knowing that there will be “Joy to the world, the Lord is come!” It is tempting to jump right to the latter, who wouldn’t? While in the church year we celebrate the birth of Christ, we live our lives looking forward to the return of Christ. We live, in a very real way, singing, “O come, O come Emmanuel…” We know that Christ will return, and bring redemption and restoration with him.
Advent is not simply the time before Christmas. Advent is not a space holder on the liturgical calendar. Advent describes our lives in a very real way as we long and yearn, and prepare for the coming of God. The sesason of Advent reminds me of my need to live an Advent life, not longing for rapture or with some escapist purpose, but an Advent life that includes expectation, and preparation, and trying to take my part in the whole church’s mission to be a foretaste of the Kingdom of God.
That’s why I’m celebrating Advent, and that is why I’m avoiding Christmas music during Advent. I want to sing, live, think, and deeply feel the essence of “O come, O come, Emmanuel.”