For the first time in my memory I had friends and family members setting up their Christmas trees the day after Halloween because, 2020. WE NEED MORE JOY. We are ready to be rid of you and your ilk, 2020. Even hold-outs like me who usually put our Christmas trees up sometime after Dec. 20th were hauling up the decorations last week before the pumpkin pie had even cooled.
This year, more than ever, folks say: we need the joy and the sparkle, and the happy distraction of the Christmas season.
But I think there’s something else. Something more intimate. More powerful. More… true. This year, more than ever, it’s as though the whole world is whispering, “Come, Lord Jesus. We’re waiting for you.” *
In years past, I daresay, most of us have viewed the season of Advent as something equal to, if not quite as exciting as, shopping on Black Friday. They both kick off the holiday season, after all, but one brings with it the thrill of immediate gratification (Black Friday sales! Free shipping! Holiday cheer!), the other calls for discretion: patience, reflection and anticipation.
And despite our pushing up the timeline on the tinsel, we can’t make Christmas arrive any faster. Some things really are out of our control. So we wait. But if all we do is fill our time with happy distractions, are we joyfully anticipating? If all we do is anxiously plan down to the minute our gatherings and greetings, are we really patient? If we fill our days by scrolling online and clicking “buy now,” have we left room for the gift of silent reflection (asking for a friend)?
And if we hurt – as so many do – but we mask our pain, can we heal?
Advent beckons us to both: deck the halls but don’t miss the manger.
We have been calling out to God to relieve us of the heaviness of 2020, and Advent is God whispering back: I’m already here. Perhaps the reason for the waiting in Advent is so we can attune ourselves as a world to the things of God. That we might be done with lists and complaints and busyness and mourning… and be quiet long enough this season to listen for the sounds coming from the stable, from the baby lying there, wrapped in swaddling clothes – Emmanuel, God with us.
As we light that first candle on the Advent wreath, our hopeful, expectant prayer may be more impassioned than it’s been in years past. More ready. May we nevertheless rest in the patient peace of this moment, knowing that even as we wait, God is with us.