Ah, Halloween, that holy day of candy and costumes, gluttony and tricks. Most of us have lost sight of the meaning behind the holiday, forgetting to honor the dead; instead using the day for fun and frivolity (yes, we do so at our house) and as a kick-off for the “holiday season.” Halloween has become Day One in the frenzy of the shopping, decorating, baking chaos that will not end until sometime after New Year’s Day. And, somewhere in the midst of that, we must squeeze one of the holiest days of the Christian faith.
People have long worn buttons, shared Christmas cards, and painted the message on store windows: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But, despite the simplistic reminder, we all too easily get caught up in our busy-ness and forget that Advent is, indeed, a holy time.
So, just what is Advent? Advent is a time of waiting for someone or something important to arrive. As Christians, our season of Advent is the time in which we anticipate the birth of the Christ child.
You might see this as being redundant. Or, you might see us as being forgetful. After all, Jesus was born over 2,000 years ago. But, like all good people of faith, we remember again and again, with tradition, with holiness, and, in this case, with great joy.
Advent is, for us, a sacred time. We may get caught up with our gifts and the trimmings, our meal planning and hanging the lights on our homes, but we are also called to take time out to pause to remember and honor that child born in a stable.
You may, or may not, know the story. Here’s the long story, short version:
Scripture tells us that Mary was with child ““ like others before her (check your history books & mythology), this was a virgin birth. (This lets us know how extraordinary and important this child would be.) With her new husband, Joseph, a good and righteous man, she traveled to Bethlehem for a census. There, she gave birth in a stable, for there was no room at the inn. Shepherds in a field were visited by angels and told about the birth of the child and they traveled to visit him. Magi (astronomers) traveled from afar to visit the child. (They probably got there later; maybe when he was a toddler.)
What do we learn from this story? There is no easy answer. The word “Christian” means so many different things to so many different people. The one commonality we Christians share is that we follow that babe born in a stable; we celebrate his birth. And, in order to do so, we must make this time of year truly holy.
Advent 2012 begins on Sunday, December 2. Many people who do not attend church at any other time throughout the year will attend during this time. Or, they will attend church on Christmas Eve, December 24. Many people will make use of special devotional booklets that guide them through each day of Advent, helping them to find meaning for their days. (One such guide is Fr. Richard Rohr’s Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent. The Kindle version is available for under $3.)
I’ve recently completed an Advent Meditation Booklet for children, hoping to make the four weeks leading up to Christmas a meaningful time for them and their families.
As Christians, we recognize that many of our rituals come from our pagan forebears. So, with a tip of the hat and many thanks to them, we continue to decorate our trees, hang our wreaths, put candles in our Yule logs, kiss under the mistletoe, and celebrate in the deep mid-winter, even though Jesus was probably born sometime in the spring.
A good friend of mine is more of the dance naked in the woods type, preferring to follow in the bare footsteps of those pagan ancestors. I can think of no better way to find Spirit and get in touch with all that is holy than by stripping off everything that is excess in our lives and becoming one with nature. But, for those of us who prefer not to bare it all in front of others, or for whom this tradition has no significance, this may not be the best option.
However you may find the Holy, make sure you make the time for it. Spirit is everywhere and your spirit calls out for connection.
Merry Christmas. Happy Solstice. Happy Hanukkah. Happy Yule. Happy Kwanzaa.