I love Advent. Christmas can be so crazy and commercialized in the United States – everyone is in a frenzy to get things done, to buy all the gifts on your list, to go to every Christmas event for your kids, and so on. But Advent changes things entirely. Advent is the exact opposite of what the Christmas season has become. Advent is all about waiting, expectancy and patience. Christians around the world celebrate Advent as a way to remember Christ’s birth, and as the Jewish people waited for centuries for their promised Messiah, we also wait for Christ once more.
Many churches around this time of year light advent candles in the four weeks prior to Christmas, with each candle representing a different theme of advent: Hope. Joy. Love. Peace. And the fifth candle, lit on Christmas day, is for Jesus. Even the physical act of lighting the candles every week requires care and patience. There is no frenzy or rushing when you light a candle. It requires a slow, steady and deliberate movement to ensure that you light the candle and not the entire wreath or church! Just like the slow, steady action of lighting a candle, we are also supposed to slow down and reflect on this season and what it means to wait for the final realization of Christ’s kingdom. We’re supposed to be waiting, wondering “when will the Messiah come?” And we wait with hope. We live with joy. We act in love. We walk in peace.
That’s why I love Advent. If there is one antidote for the mess that has become the American Christmas, it’s not forcing the word “Christmas” on everyone. It’s living out the actual season we are in: Advent. It’s in living out advent’s characteristics of hope, joy, love and peace as patiently as we can. It’s in failing miserably, as I do every day and then trying once more, because the Messiah is coming.
Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. Repeat.