Years ago, I gave up on Advent. It was hard to maintain the Advent frame of mind (quiet longing for the coming of Christ) in the midst of the Christmas tumult, which seems to get started around Columbus Day. I remember listening to a priest one Sunday urging us to take Advent seriously by waiting until Christmas Eve to put up the tree and other decorations. You don’t live in my world, Father, I sniffed.
But that was then. Now my wife and I live in a home without children. Advent candles, prayers at dinner, and a certain simplicity and restraint in lifestyle become more possible. More desirable, really, because I think about the season differently.
Advent is sensual. It’s a season of barren trees and cold hands and darkness that falls earlier every day. We put away the patio furniture, caulk the windows, and retreat indoors. It’s a season of light—burning logs in the fireplace, candles in the Advent wreath, gossamer white lights in the trees along Main Street.
Advent breaks down the walls between the sacred and the secular. Yes, Christmas can devolve into a gaudy, commercial festival, but the core of it is family and gift-giving and music and food and happy celebration, and the core of all that is the coming of Christ into a cold, dark world. It’s delightful to anticipate all that. So let’s light the Advent candles and say the prayers and sing the songs. Christ is coming.