We’ve been sold on a package deal. All the major winter holidays rolled into one enormous snowball ready to knock us flat. The ball starts rolling on Halloween, not because it is a major holiday, but more because the marketers believe it is the start of ‘the holiday season’. It gathers speed as it heads towards Thanksgiving, then it takes flight off our bloated bellies and hurtles us towards Christmas without touching down. And so we land, exhausted, frazzled, and bloated from holiday cheer, smack in the middle of Christmas and wonder how we got here. And then, before we know it the presents are opened, the eggnog carton is empty and we are left with nothing but scattered paper and ten extra pounds to remind us that the holiday even existed.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Christmas decorations were never meant to deck the halls on November 1st, as soon as the artificial pumpkins came down. Some day I fully expect to see Santa arriving in a Cinderella-style pumpkin coach pulled by twelve fat turkeys rather than the traditional reindeer and sleigh. You laugh, but haven’t we been sold on this idea that the holidays are a package deal? Thanksgiving is the precursor to Black Friday, day of the Christmas deals, instead of a time to pause and reflect on the bounty of the harvest and give thanks to God for all our blessings as we prepare for the bleakness of winter.
Still, Thanksgiving gets at least part of its due, as school children dutifully re-enact its history and families gather to give thanks. But then there is the forgotten season. Advent. The season overshadowed with the frenzy of Christmas. Advent. A time of waiting, a time of hoping for things yet unseen. A time to take note of the brokenness around us and to echo the ancient cries for Messiah to come and save us. We know the end of the story; we know Messiah has come, but do we lose something when we wait for Messiah in the midst of the clamor of Christmas rather than the silence of Advent? The silence of Advent is shepherds under a silent sky, quietly going about their business, dreaming of the day they will be free from their oppressors, never realizing how close salvation was drawing. The silence of Advent is wise men, with their books and stars, searching for a sign that there is some meaning in this life. The silence of Advent is a weary Mary, nine months pregnant and making her way to Bethlehem, sleeping by the side of the road, bearing the double burden of pregnancy and a mystery she cannot fathom. The silence of Advent is Joseph, wondering what to say to a wife who is about to give birth to the son of God. Silence. Feel the hush as the world waits in anticipation for fulfillment.
This year I want to spend more time focusing on Advent. Oh, I still love the carols and my tree is already up, I’m counting my pennies and doing my shopping. But I want to resist the lure of making every day exciting, every day an anticipation of Christmas. I want to focus on silence, on the broken world that was forever changed on Christmas day. I want to keep Advent in my heart.