Like many people, Advent is my favourite season in the Liturgical year. There is something in the air at this time of year. I just can’t place my finger on it. There is a business about Advent too that is different from the regular business we find ourselves wrapped up in the rest of the year. So what is it about Advent that makes this time of year special and stand out from the rest of the year? What is in the air?
Perhaps, and I am a sucker for these too, it is the Christmas lights that decorate windows and streets. I know I am among a few who appreciate this, but the cold that winter adds to this time of year is also comforting and peaceful. If we were in other parts of the country, I would mention how beautiful the landscape looks with fresh snow, the sound of snow crunching under our feet with every step makes this time of year special.
Then there is the usual business and stress of shopping and meal preparations, parties and other commitments that dominate the schedule too. While less, peaceful, this is also a business that is different from the business that dominates the rest of the year.
So what is Advent and what is it that makes this time of year so special? Perhaps it is a combination of all of the above. In a way, what I have been describing should speak to what we hear in our readings from Scripture today. With all the business we find ourselves immersed in, with this special sense in the air, we find ourselves preparing and waiting for something great and exciting in our world and lives. We are waiting and preparing for God to come into the world once more in the person of Jesus. We wait and prepare with excitement for Christmas and all that Christmas means to us.
But there is something about waiting, whether it be for the birth of Jesus or something else. As we all know, waiting can be very hard work. We need patience, something not many people are good at. Also because we can often see or sense the vision or the end goal - such as Christmas - waiting can be frustrating too. Perhaps it is the waiting that is the hardest pat of this time of year because we live in a culture and society that is not used to waiting.
We live in a world that is dominated by cell phones, email, text messenger, Facetime, Skype and a whole host of other ways in which we get immediate satisfaction or results. How many of us when sending a text message, don’t spend the immediate following minutes anxiously examining our phones to see those grey dots that come up to indicate the the person on the other end is responding to our text? I know I do. How many of us get frustrated when sending an email and find that we may have to wait half a day or the next day before getting a response. I mean the nerve of people not to respond to an email quickly and instantly . . . Gosh it wasn’t too long ago when the world never new about email and fax machines and the means of instant communication was the telephone - remember those? Somehow we all seemed to manage before the age of technology caught up with us.
I wonder if God works immediately. Maybe there is another message, a counter cultural message at this time of year. In our lives and world we deal with so much that is beyond our control. Perhaps the other message at this time of year is that we need to slow down and pay attention to the details, people and parts of our lives that do matter. As the Archbishop mentioned in her sermon last week while recounting a story from one the Ted Talks in the Episcopal Church. Are we placing our energy and time on the important parts of our lives? Our relationships, family and friends. Are we being the best mom or dad we can be? Because surely family is far more important and precious than any other job, meeting or commitment we may have. When we do come to our departing, wheat will we regret more, the time spent with work and meetings or the time missed with family? Perhaps one of the other lessons Advent teaches us is the value in slowing down once in awhile and paying attention to what is life giving and life affirming for us.
Advent also teaches us that instant gratification isn’t always best. Because some things take time, preparation and care. Advent teaches us that our lives and all that we do and all that we are is ultimately in God’s hands and in God’s time.
In the midst of all that this time of year brings, take time, slow down, and enjoy the anticipation of a new day that is about to come.