We live in a world that likes to act before thinking.
“It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.”
“Shoot first and ask questions later.”
Most horrifically, we hear people misguidedly say things like: “Kill them all; let God sort it out.”
It seems that our world has the same attitude about Christmas, one of our most sacred holidays. People begin celebrating Christmas right after Halloween, not realizing that there is an entire season in-between called “Advent.” We find ourselves acting on Christmas before contemplating why it exists in the first place.
The season of Advent, this season we are in now, is all about preparation, stillness, and expectation – things contrary to the hustle and bustle of our materialistic and commercialistic society that tells us that Christmas is all about now, now, now.
Christmas begins on December 25 and it does so every year - unlike Easter that bounces around the calendar. It’s easy to know when Christmas will arrive.
Still, it is either tempting to jump past the season that is designed to prepare us for Christmas or, quite frankly, find ourselves surprised that the season of Advent exists in the first place.
Despite all of this confusion, Advent exists for a reason. Advent reminds us of the value of living in expectant patience for a wonderful future. It reminds us of that virtue that many of our grandparents tried to instill in us called “delayed gratification.”
It reminds us that great things don’t come in the blink of an eye, but rather through long preparation.
To be sure, Christmas is a time of joy.
However, Advent allows us to experience that joy in a much more profound way. It teaches us to wait for something of wonder.
It prepares us for the most incredible gift – the gift from God named “Jesus” who was born on Christmas Day, walked in our shoes as a human being, and one day gave his life for us and all people.
Advent prepares us for Christmas morning, which is all about a God who loved us literally to the point of death, and yet who also rose from the dead in order to destroy death’s ultimate power.
So, what are you expecting from Christmas?
Is Christmas mostly about earthly gifts, or is it about a heavenly gift?
Is it an opportunity to fill your spirit with true joy, or simply an excuse to break from a diet and fill yourself with an absurd amount of food?
If you aren’t sure, or if you are wavering on these questions, ask yourself another question: “How can I embrace Advent, slow down, ponder, and enjoy the wonder of this seaon?”
Here are a few things that work for people:
- Really Read: I don’t mean read a manual or something for your work, I mean really read something you enjoy for at least 15 minutes a day. Perhaps this is an opportunity to delve into your faith’s Scriptures or to catch up on a certain novel. Advent is your excuse to stop and simply be.
- Sacred Music: Add sacred music to your rhythm by listening to the same songs from your faith or other tradition each day in December. This could be done while driving as you serve people through Samaritas.
- Reclaim Heritage: Gather with family or friends to make a recipe form your cultural background. This could be done while learning about your roots and sharing those stories with a new generation.
- Curb Consumerism: Choose to purchase one less item for the season and use those financial resources for someone in need. Gifts could be given through noble causes like Samaritas’ The Good Samaritan Fund.
- Practice Patience: We all know it’s not easy dealing with traffic, especially during winter weather. Try to leave ten minutes early, slow down, and allow people to cut in front without yelling something at them – it is the season of blessings, not curses, after all.
So, amidst the hustle and bustle of a frantic and frenetic world, how will you embrace the gift of Advent this year?
How will you take advantage of a season that begs you to stop, to listen, and to prepare for a life much greater than what you could ever dream?
The Rev. Dr. Niklaus Schillack is Director, Church Relations, for Samaritas.