Every year I wrestle with what I’m going to do to keep the season of Advent. It’s a question because while the religious season of Christmas doesn’t begin until December 25th. That’s when our cultural celebration ends.
Not that I shy away from holiday festivities. Not at all. I go caroling with my neighbors. I bake cookies in seasonal shapes, and wear a Christmas tree hat as that day approaches. This past Saturday I visited Bryant Park in New York city, as well as Rockefeller Center with my kids. The tree is up and lit in Bryant Park. Rockefeller Center’s is up too, but won’t be lit until Wednesday. I won’t see it for a few weeks. I’ll have to wait. Waiting is what Advent is about.
The waiting is for the birth of Jesus, who has already come, and who Christians hope will come again. In a sense, Advent is like the last weeks of a pregnancy. You know the baby is coming, and it’s just a matter of time until she does. The tension I experience between Advent and our cultural celebration of Christmas is something like having baby shower after baby shower before the birth. When the child is born, everyone celebrates, then goes home. Try that with a family member!
One of the reasons I like all the trappings of red and green–even while my church is draped in solemn purple–is because of the way we’re encouraged to think beyond ourselves. While it’s easy to get bogged down finding just the right gift, I like the simple reminder of the season: it’s good to give.