If I asked you what you want for Christmas this year, what would your answer be?
How would the answer change if I asked you what you long for this Christmas?
While the question of want carries images of glittery store windows, digital shopping carts waiting to be filled at the touch of a track pad, and lists that can be made of items that can be purchased for a price, the question of longing is different . . . deeper . . . more personal . . . less tangible . . . more real.
What are the deepest longings of your heart?
Our culture has no investment in answering that question, because our deepest longings can’t be packaged, marketed, and put on special sale. And so the “Christmas shopping season” caters to our transient desires as though they were ultimate, and hopes we won’t notice.
The “Christmas shopping season” caters to our transient desires as though they were ultimate, and hopes we won’t notice.
I know what I want for Christmas this year, but it’s not sold in stores.
I want Advent.
The neighborhood may already be awash in blow-up snowmen, while carols play overhead incessantly in every store, but in my heart I know that the remedy for all that fails to satisfy in the hustle and bustle of December lies in the quiet longing of Advent.
Isn’t there something in your soul that longs for stillness instead of frenzy? For a few lit candles instead of a few thousand blinking lights? For the chance to sit in darkened silence long enough to sense God’s approach?
Advent is a season of waiting.
Advent is a season of waiting. That is probably not your favorite thing to do. It’s certainly not mine.
This December I am waiting for my book contract to be finalized, waiting for my brother to settle on his new house and, most anxiously, waiting to find out Porter’s chemotherapy schedule. My sweetheart was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in November; everyone says we should expect a cure, but still, this is a new road of uncertain length and terrain. I’d be much more comfortable if we had a good map (even as I acknowledge that control is the last illusion to go).
We are all waiting for something–probably more than one something. But waiting does not have to be passive and fruitless and frustrating. It can be creative, expectant, full of hope and even joy.
Think of Mary in the long months between Gabriel’s astounding announcement and the birth of Jesus. I imagine that she was eager to hold this miraculous child in her arms. Yet I also imagine that there was a stillness to her waiting, as she pondered the ways of God in her heart. And I imagine she learned something that only time could teach her. That lesson can be ours as well, if we embrace what Fr. Tim Lyons recently called “the gift of deepening darkness in these December days.”
The gift of deepening darkness in these December days
And so this is my prayer–for you, for me, for all of us: May we carve out some Advent time for ourselves this year. Seize it. Sneak off with it. Whatever it takes. For I am sure of this much:
God’s gift will be better than anything we find under our tree.