I recently read a wonderful blog post from Hayley Stewart on Why Advent Should Terrify You, and it inspired me to jot down some of my own thoughts on Advent. Also, if you’ve never been to Hayley’s blog, you should go visit!
I realize this is primarily a food blog, but at this stage of my journey it’s just not feasible to bake healthy food and take pretty pictures. So instead this is a space for me to write non-academic, non-required, and probably nonsensical.
So…Advent. A lot of non-religious people have now assimilated the tradition of the Advent calendar, and it really bothers me. Especially when they start on December 1st. That’s a 25 day countdown, it’s not an advent calendar. And how many of these people have more than a superficial knowledge of what Advent really is? Why does everything have to be stolen from religious tradition and secularized?
What is more sad is the ignorance inside the Church of what Advent means. Who knows that if it hadn’t become a “Christmas countdown” within the Church we never would have seen such a secular version outside of religious belief? If we don’t start turning back to the real meaning of Advent, how can we hope to save the real meaning of Christmas? Advent is a vital to our faith. I think there’s a great tendency to forget that it is the beginning of the liturgical year. The first Sunday of Advent is the New Year of the Church.
“Be comforted, be comforted, my people, saith your God. Speak ye to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her: for her evil is come to an end, her iniquity is forgiven: she hath received of the hand of the Lord double for all her sins. The voice of one crying in the desert: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the wilderness the paths of our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough ways plain.” (Isaiah 40:1-4)
These verses from Isaiah are kinda paradoxical, right? At first it sounds great. All that glory and exaltation and saving. But that voice of one crying in the desert (John the Baptist) is kinda bothersome. The wilderness is in fact our own hearts, and we are being exhorted to make straight in them paths for our God. This sounds like a whole lot of uncomfortable. But if we consider Advent as being a New Year, it’s the perfect time for resolutions and repentance. Making sacrifices and re-converting aren’t reserved for Lent alone. What better way to prepare for the birth of our Savior than renewing and strengthening our faith?
My theology course this semester was (wow…was? That’s weird….) on prayer and the sacraments, and I really loved how much emphasis there was on our relationship with God. That’s all He wants-to love us and to have His love returned. Why else would He send His only Son to save us? He gave us literally paradise and we threw it away because we have authority issues. Still He would assume humanity and die for us. Still He would seek us relentlessly. Preparation for Advent shouldn’t be empty self-mortification and abasement, it should be a joyful return of God’s love.
Of course we should still make sacrifices, but we should strive for a right understanding of sacrifice. God desires “sacrifices of praise”, and praise is an expression of joy and love. If we do mortify our flesh, it is only in order to bring us closer to Him. Tying this all back into Advent, make the focus of this preparation for Christmas prayer. Cultivate a deeper relationship with God, even if you don’t feel like you have anything to say, if you have the desire to grow closer to God you’re already doing it. Even setting aside moments of silence and mediation can be extremely fruitful.
Finally, we’re still “social creatures” and once we’ve received the Good News, we’re obliged to share it with others. The nature of God’s love doesn’t permit us to keep it to ourselves. That’s another thing to strive for this Advent: bringing God to others through your actions. Don’t leave it all up to God, but don’t try to think you can do it all on your own. These two things: prayer and charity, can make a huge difference in the spiritual abundance that is always available but rarely used during Advent. Remember: if there was no one else on the earth except you, Christ still would have come just to save you. Doesn’t that already make Christmas so much more special?
Listening to repeatedly: Come and Get It- John Newman
Streaming on Netflix: Merlin & Supernatural
Staying up reading: Lois Lowry
Stalking this blog: A Beautiful Mess
Obsessed with this board: Paquets Cadeaux
Random thought: why do we say “a whole ‘nother”? It’s like we inserted “whole” right inside “another” and It’s really disturbing. Nother is not a word. English, what are you doing?