Advent means “arrival” and the season is all about preparation and waiting for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. We enter into a season where we can focus our hearts on what we are truly celebrating.
In today’s culture, it’s harder and harder to find that space to do this. Everything bleeds into our lives and begins to take over, much in the way that Black Friday has bled into Thanksgiving Thursday. Everything is vying for our time and attention, screaming to us that whatever it is is the most important thing and demands us to focus only on it.
I always remember Jesus’ words about the need to become like a child in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We can overcomplicate our lives and shift our focus to unimportant things, but it’s always a good reminder during this season for me to watch my children. What makes them excited? What do they talk about? What kind of imagination and wonder are they experiencing as they sometimes experience for the first time the things that I have taken for granted?
Hope. Joy. Love. Peace. These are the staples of the season. Happiness is purposefully missing there, and it’s the very thing that drives so many of us. We just want to be happy, to be content and have everything that we want. But hope, joy, love, and peace don’t come to us through our own conjuring. We don’t work harder and find that those things magically appear in our lives like a reward at the end of a video game level. In finding them, we need to lose ourselves.
I work on getting prepared for Advent way before Thanksgiving weekend. I know myself and the need to slow down, to take inventory, to assess where I am and where I’m going. If I don’t intentionally slow down and even stop, December 25th will be behind me and I will be shaking my head in astonishment that I missed the moment.
So, I come upon another year, another opportunity, to wait and watch, to capture the wonder of what I am celebrating this year. So much has changed over the past few years, but these things should not be the ones where I find my hope, my joy, or my peace. Love, yes, but the other three are not things which can be provided for me by stuff, possessions, or even people.
Already a few days in and I can feel myself grabbing for the paper bag to breathe into as I begin to hyperventilate over all the things that need to get done. I need to slow down, make my list, check it twice if I must, and then move along at a pace that is less than harried, less than focused.
I’m waiting and watching, looking for hope, joy, and peace. Where do I find it? I find it not so much in the manger but in the One who I find in that manger, God incarnate, come to enter into life with us.