The season of Advent is one of waiting… of preparation, of anticipation… and, if we are honest, often a season of weariness. This year, a theme that keeps hitting my ears has been ‘reality Christmas’. This concept acknowledges the drain and strain that the endless activities of the holidays can produce. Family gatherings, growing to-do lists and endless events can do more to grow loneliness & despair than the hope & peace written on every Christmas card we write. It pushes against the magical ideal of a picture perfect Christmas and embraces the heartache and disappointment that real life often brings.
Many of us want to create & celebrate the wonder of the holidays for our families as well as ourselves. We long to have the perfect moment, the rich traditions and deep meanings of this season be our reality. However, it can be a challenge to come even close to the desire we have… Life get’s messy. So do we give up the hope? Do we become less wishful? Do we simply lower our expectations? Or is there another way?
Advent is the four weeks or Sundays preceding Christmas. It is the beginning of the church calendar and a season of looking ahead to the year to come. We remember the promises of the prophets, marvel with Mary, Journey with Joseph, wonder with the shepherds, and then rejoice with the angels when Christ is born. It’s a miraculous story but it is not short and sweet. It’s a slow, unfolding story that took generations to be fulfilled. It’s a baby that takes months to develop. It’s a journey that takes miles to travel. It’s a precious gift that comes to us from the far reaches of the earth. It’s a kingdom that takes generations to establish.
It is in this vein that we approach Christmas. It is slow and plodding. Mundane and tedious, surprising and unfolding. It is both magical and very much real. It is a mystery.
We should give ourselves grace for the full range of life and not feel we need to rush to make happen what will unfold. We are waiting for what has been promised and has yet to come.