I find myself truly amazed to realize that we have come to the end and the beginning of another Church year. It seems it was just a couple of months ago that we were taking down the greens and putting things away from the last celebration of Advent and Christmas. But then I stop to think of the extraordinary events of this year – the joys and the pains that we have all suffered and I find myself marveling that it has only been eleven months.
This has not been an easy year for many of us, and I wonder if you join with me in dreaming of a quiet, uneventful Christmas this year as a way to catch our breaths. I find myself longing for the familiar rituals, the shopping for gifts, the parties with friends, the time spent with family and loved ones and most of all the presence of Jesus among us.
Over the years I have asked people to hold off on celebrating Christmas until Advent is truly ended, pointing out that the season of Advent is a time of waiting and hoping in the church year that has its own integrity and message. I’ve often fretted that Advent has been subsumed by the rush to Christmas and that as a result Christmas Day rather than being the beginning of a wonderful season of joy is instead an end to the holidays and marks the beginning of the return to the regular schedules of our lives.
But this year seems different to me for some reason. I suppose it’s because of all that has happened to us in the past 12 months. I find myself wanting Christmas to come as quickly as possible. Every year the Christmas season, with its music and food, memories and promise renews in me my faith that Christ is coming into the world. Perhaps Christ is not as present among us as I might hope – but in the joy and wonder of Christmas I hear his voice no matter how faintly it might sound on the evening breeze.
If rushing through Advent this year brings us closer to the healing memories and rituals of Christmas more quickly, then let us make haste! Let us look forward to the promise of Christ among us, innocent and lovely, remaking us more closely into the image of himself. Let us see Christ working through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, renewing our faith, strengthening our resolve and showing of God’s love in the face of each other this season. Let us celebrate Christmas and keep our Advent watch with all our strength, and let us pray for each other and give thanks for the beauty around us.
It is Advent – and we wait and watch. But I hear the song of the angels on the winds of the night announcing that Christ is born and lives among us, and in the words of the one of my very favorite saints, I know that all manner of things shall be well.
May Christmas come quickly and pass slowly for each one of you this year.