When I was little, I remember how I used to spend hours sitting in the room where our family had our Christmas Tree. I’d plug the tree lights in and turn off the other lights in the room so that the tree was the only illumination. The old fashioned bulbs cast multi-colored shadows on the walls and ceilings. The glass bulbs reflected the same lights again and again so that the tree seemed to blaze with their light. The room smelled of evergreen which mingled with the smell of my mother’s cooking out in the kitchen. My Mom used to play her old Christmas carol albums on the HiFi and I’d sit and listen for hours while gazing at our tree.
It’s one of my favorite memories of December. I think of it frequently as I rush about these days getting ready for the holiday. In the midst of the shopping and the decorating, the end-of-year office chores and tests and grading, those simple quiet moments sitting with and gazing upon our Christmas tree seem like an oasis to me.
When I think back on what has become of December for me as an adult, I wonder if it’s still possible to reach back to that moment of stillness. In so many ways that still, quiet time is the essence of what Advent should be about. The base of the tree was not loaded with gifts yet like it would be in the days just before Christmas. The whole family hadn’t yet gathered together in one place like we would on Christmas Eve before going to the Midnight Service. But the tree was a sign that those moments were coming. It wasn’t Christmas itself, but it was clear that the promise of Christmas Day was near. While I sat in the room gazing at the tree, I was really luxuriating in that knowledge.
The Season of Advent is much like that Christmas Tree. Advent is a time to search for signs of the promised of the Kingdom of God. Our minds and our prayers become like spotlights scanning the starry night sky. We can see God’s Kingdom breaking in upon us as we focus in this season on providing for the less fortunate. Perhaps it’s in the way we make family and friends a priority in a manner that we just can’t manage to do the rest of the year. Perhaps it’s found in the beauty of the lights that we put in our windows to brush back the gathering darkness of the winter night.
The Church gathers throughout the world in the silence and solemnity of Advent. We gather because we know that Jesus will come again. We know that this time Jesus coming will mean an end to sadness, an end to hunger and injustice. It will be to us the beginning of the reign of our true and only King. We read again the promises that God made to us in the voices of the prophets. We hear again the story of how God kept the promise of a Messiah for all the World. And we remember that it is all a sign of the great promise of our Messiah’s return.
The decorations and the preparations we make in Advent are pointing us in a small way to the yearly celebration of Christmas. But in truth they are pointing us more to a deeper reality. God is on the move. The ice and snow will pass away. The spring will come, but this spring will never end.
May God grant you a quiet, serene and watchful Advent season this year.