Growing up, Advent had been “just another season” in my Catholic eyes. I always received some sort of Advent calendar which moved me through the days, counting down until Christmas. I knew that the main colors were purple and pink, and sometimes Christmas tree green and Poinsettia red. I did not correlate the season of Advent with having to “wait” for Christmas. Sure, the connection is easy to make now, but it wasn’t important enough for me to truly understand when I was younger. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the meaning of Advent (and of course, Christmas). When I work at Starbucks, I am inundated with Christmas décor and music. As I watch my beloved Hallmark Channel, I see Christmas movies 24 hours a day. When I go shopping for necessities or groceries or gifts, the stores act as a constant reminder that Christmas is almost here. With Christmas all around me, I noticed that it is quite difficult to focus on Advent.
But is it really that difficult? When I tried to explain Advent to myself (stop laughing at me), I thought of this: Advent is like the preparation of a surprise birthday party. You know, that time that we have when we’re waiting to pop out and yell, “SURPRISE!” We’ve seen the birthday decorations; we know the theme of the party; we know many of the guests; we already purchased and wrapped the gifts. All we’re waiting for is the guest of honor! So, there’s that excitement and joy and hope that the surprise party is well-received. However, we also have to endure all of that waiting, which seems to take FOREVER (or approximately four weeks) when we’re crouched down behind the couch. (Just imagine how long the Hebrews had to wait!!)
So then, what is Advent really about? It’s about preparation. Remember, Jesus is coming! You want everything to be perfect for his arrival. But don’t use that as an excuse to “look busy” – busyness is not what Advent is about. It’s about joy; the joy that one receives when they know a loved one is about to arrive. It’s about hope; the hope that we are soon to be saved by God, through the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. It’s about peace; the peace that only the Prince can bring to our hearts, minds, and world. And it’s about love; the love that God has for us and the love that we have for God, and also the love that we have for each other.
During this Advent season, take the time to clean and decorate your home (both the homes that we physically live in, and the one that our hearts live in) because the Prince of Peace will soon be at your doorstep. Search for gifts that you know Jesus will just love, because God dwells in each of the ones unwrapping them. And be ready to pop out from behind the couch to yell, “SURPRISE!” (A “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” or a “Merry Christmas!” will be just fine, too.)
I wish you all a joyful, hopeful, peaceful, and loving Advent. Now, get to work! (But also remember to savor the time that you have right now.)
Sláinte! (with water, of course)