To be fair, it’s not an easy thing to put together an authentically spiritual observance of the Advent Christmas Season in our culture. Over the next month there will be hundreds of people screaming at us through every imaginable medium, trying to convince us that a meaningful Christmas can be purchased, both with money and with frenetic effort, and that if the outlay of cash and energy is good enough, then the season will be well honoured.
Now, there is certainly nothing wrong about investing time and energy and even money in one’s preparation for the Christmas. In fact, it can be very good.
But it also can be a stumbling block, a real obstacle to an experience of Advent that is meant to be a time of renewal, a time for the gathering of one’s spiritual strengths, rather than their dissipation.
Advent is a time of waiting – waiting that is flavoured by a certain reserve, almost a kind of hush, an expectancy. For Christmas, Advent is meant to be a time when we peer more deeply than usual into our own makeup and, in doing so, see there a certain incompleteness, a kind of emptiness. And we sense that not only about ourselves but about all of the human condition, all of creation.
It is a time when Christians become more sensitive than usual to the fact that the Universe is what one writer has described as an unfinished symphony.
It is a symphony in which a great deal of the score has already been played out, and played with great beauty and great meaning, but one to which the last chord has not yet been struck. Until it is, the rest of the piece doesn’t quite hang together, the rest of the movement doesn’t quite fall into place.
Certainly, the figure of Mary, the expectant Mother of Christ is the perfect Advent Symbol. Even in this age, there is no greater mystery than an expectant mother.
She waits, and prepares, with some uncertainty, some anxiety certainly, but also with a kind of complacency, a confident awareness that beyond sight, beyond even understanding, there is a movement taking place within her that will eventually result in the birth of something sacred, something infinitely valuable.
Well, we must model ourselves this Advent along the lines of just that symbol. Advent is a time of dreaming, for generous planning, a time for wondering what God will do for us this time. What will he do through us?
And a year from now, or ten, or a hundred, whatever the answers to those questions are meant to be, if we have been faithful, if we have waited with hope, then the last chord shall be struck and we shall be made complete.
And our waiting will have been worthwhile.