The season of Advent began at sunset on Saturday. The season comes to an end as the sun sets on Christmas Eve.
Advent means “coming.” In this season, we wait for Jesus to come – at the end of time and in our hearts. And we recall the hope-filled waiting that came to fulfillment when Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
Waiting isn’t something we tend to do well. We want things when we want them – fast, easy, with minimal cost. Advent is the opposite. It takes its own time – 24 days this year. Lived well, it comes with a cost in time and silence spent in prayer and reflection. It calls us to more generosity as we ae brought face-to-face with the needs of those in our community.
The temptation is to fill these days with early celebrations and preparations so that the waiting becomes almost secondary. Making the days too full allows us to avoid the discomfort we feel in waiting.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid all preparation and celebration. You won’t have cookies to eat on Christmas Eve if you don’t bake them. There will be no presents to open on Christmas morning unless they are purchased and wrapped in advance. Many of the special seasonal events (concerts, plays, etc.) are only available before Christmas. Work or social groups likely schedule their parties before Christmas.
But you can try to create balance. One of the reasons that I start my preparations (especially cards and shopping) early is so I have less to do in the weeks of Advent. That allows me to space the remaining preparation and celebration across the weeks. I can also spread the costs so that more money is available for giving. I try to leave several nights completely free, allowing me to rest in the silence and wait for what is to come. That way, when Christmas finally arrives, I have the energy to actually enjoy the day.