Saturday, November 26, 2016

Advent Is Coming

A few years ago we bought a house. Every year after Thanksgiving, a neighbor puts a sign in their yard that says "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" For the first couple of years that we lived here, I could barely refrain from scoffing and rolling my eyes every time I drove by and telling the kids "It is not Jesus' birthday."

Several years ago on Facebook, a college friend of mine wished all of his friends a Merry Christmas and warned us not to forget the reason for the season. I thought I couldn't help myself when I responded snarkily with: "Do you mean Jesus? Because it's very unlikely that he was even born this time of year."

I, too, am surprised that God didn't smite me right then and there.

Someone I don't know responded with "Is this girl for real?"

I was for real. I had even armed myself with information about how many of our Christmas traditions and even the date of Christmas has pagan origins. In the end, I didn't enter into an argument about the reason for the season because I had finally, at twenty-something years old, begun to learn some discretion.

Sometime last year, I remember thinking about Christmas and suddenly it hit me: it (December 25) doesn't have to be His actual birthday, but maybe it is simply a celebration of His birth.

Ding ding ding! Lightbulbs are flashing, bells are ringing, people!

I can't tell you what a relief it was to have puzzled this out for myself. Imagine my surprise and delight when Christopher L. Webber, an Episcopal priest, said that very thing in Welcome to Sunday. I was so excited, I told Husband about it right away. He nodded and smiled like he was indulging someone very special.

Probably the whole thing could have been cleared up years ago if I had bothered to have a real conversation with any number of people, or they bothered to have a real conversation with me, about Christmas, instead of just skating over it like politics and talking about the superficial parts.

But here I am. About to embark on my very first season of Advent. I had, of course, heard of Advent before, but I really and truly thought it was just a countdown to Christmas the commercial holiday, that magical time when kids wake up before the sun to see what's under the tree.

Now I know that it is the beginning of the liturgical year, the church year, and it is a season of joy, preparation (for the celebration of Christ's first coming, when he was born a wee baby in a manger), and anticipation (trying to imagine what it must have been like for those anticipating that first coming and also looking towards the second coming), but also penitential.

Of course, this is all information I am regurgitating for you. I don't yet have a true understanding of what Advent is or is supposed to be, but I am very excited to learn.

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