In the seasons of Advent and Lent I find myself feeling a bit at odds with the frivolity of the season. (Not that Lent is exactly filled with mirth but it is hardly about getting stocked up on chocolate for the Easter bunny to deliver either.) As a culture we seem to jump from one event to the next without savoring any part of it – like draining a bottle of wine without holding it long enough in the mouth to appreciate its flavor, becoming drunk on the quantity we consume with no enjoyment of its richness. So, immediately one holiday is done the stores quickly remove all signs that it happened and gear up for the next selling opportunity.
Maybe if these seasons were only about Santa Claus and the Easter bunny it wouldn’t matter what big business did to stimulate us to buy candy and trinkets. But because these seasons hold such significant religious meaning for me I find myself wanting to withdraw from the glittery trappings of our consumerist world into an inward space sparsely adorned with things that have become symbols of where my heart is in these waiting days of Advent. A candle glows in the light of early morning as a symbol of God’s presence with me as I invite his Spirit to fill my day. The Advent ring of candles remind me weekly of expressions of hope, peace, joy and love that we ponder during the four weeks leading up to Christmas day. Some of the mournful tunes of Advent remind me of the longing of a heart for the arrival of a loved one long waited for, of my hopes waiting to be fulfilled and of the melancholy of a waiting heart.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not sad or depressed. The period of waiting gives me time for the preparation I need to do on the inside. I need the reminders of why we wait, why Christians devote this time to preparation and waiting and why it is good for my soul to stop and reflect before I jump into the celebration and joy of Christmas.
The celebration will come. My house will be full of children and grandchildren and their voices, of smells of baking and roasting turkey, the scent of the real tree, the delight of wrapping and unwrapping gifts, and the sounds of joyful Christmas music. But if my heart is not prepared for the coming of the King, a turkey and some mistletoe will not be able to fill my days with real joy.