Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why I Celebrate Advent

Today I was surprised to read someone's prickly remarks about Advent.  Their remarks watered the sacred tradition of Advent, its candles and liturgy and reflections, into the spiritual equivalent of weak tea.  I was startled.  And confused.  And I felt myself burn with the malevolent wish to offer some prickly comments in return. 

Once my boiling brew of anger had settled down to a slightly less agitated simmer I asked myself the obvious question: "Why do I celebrate Advent?" 

I celebrate Advent because I believe this crazy story that an angel came to Mary and told her she was going to have a tiny, helpless baby, God's baby, whose name was to be called
Wonderful Counselor
Mighty God
Everlasting Father
Prince of Peace

I celebrate Advent because I believe this crazy story that angels lit up an inky black sky in tiny Bethlehem and proclaimed to some scared, gaping shepherds, "Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord."

I celebrate Advent because I believe this crazy promise from Isaiah long ago:
"Unto us a Child is born."
I love the sacredness of Advent.  Amidst the crazy shopping malls and hopped up frenzy of a so-called "War on Christmas," I love Advent's quiet waiting, its muted anticipation.  I don't need to shout "Merry Christmas!" over the beeping of a cash register to fulfill my duty to Jesus during Advent. 
I need to play Handel's "Messiah" over and over and over again. 
I need to buy coats for cold children and gloves for frigid fingers and food for hungry bellies and soft blankets for the chilly laps of nursing home residents.
I need to gather around my piano with my husband and children and play and sing the beautiful hymns celebrating this season of anticipation. 
I need to sit in the quiet morning stillness with my cup of coffee and my Bible and my book of liturgical Advent prayers and my thin book of thick Advent essays. 
I need to sit around my dinner table in the evening with my family and light our Advent candles, our candles of promise, of light, of hope, of love. 
I need to lie in bed at night and rest my hand on my belly and imagine what it must have been like for Mary as she waited for this baby, this promised one. 
Tonight, I wish for you, I pray for you, the quiet longing, the aching joy, of Advent.  As these days unfold I will light my candle of promise, my candle of light, my candle of love,  my candle of hope. And I will pray that you, too, will feel the warmth of promise, of light, of love, and of hope.
For unto this world, this world that is creaking under the weight of its grief, this world that is heavy with sorrow, this world that is splintered with evil...unto this world, a Child is born.
Unto me, a Child is born.
Unto you, a Child is born.