As a child I didn’t think much about Advent. And I probably wouldn’t have even known this season HAD a name if it wasn’t for Advent calendars. I loved those. They helped me count down the days to Christmas, the day on which I would get presents. That really was what it was all about for me. And I guess that makes total sense. I knew that we were somehow celebrating Jesus’ “birthday” . . . but beyond that this season was all about going through the Sears catalog (Remember that?) and making my list for Santa. And this season was also about daydreaming at school as I looked forward to a couple of weeks off. And the only praying I did during this time was for snow. After all, I was a kid.
I’d like to say that Advent is much different for me as an adult . . . but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate. And yes . . . I know I have very specific duties during this time as my role as clergy, but make no mistake about it . . . I am on the exact same journey as all of you. I don’t want to feel burdened or overwhelmed by this season. I don’t want to dread all the things that I’m expected to be at, or preside at . . . things that sometimes leave me exhausted. I don’t want to have to spend a lot of time shopping for presents and sending cards and such. I guess the simplest way to put it is . . . I don’t want to feel the way many of you feel. I don’t want to be thinking, “I can’t wait for it all to be over.” But what exactly DO I want from this holy season? I guess I want something. But what is that something? I’m not exactly sure. And so, I ask again . . . what is Advent for?
If you think I’m going to answer that question in a complete way, you are mistaken. Not because I don’t want to . . . but because the answer to that question is different for each of us. And so a “one size fits all” kind of answer doesn’t quite work. And yet . . . now that I think about it . . . I think I might have just answered the question a moment ago.
What do I want from this holy season? Something!
And you know what? If I’m open to it, I’m guaranteed to get it.
The Gospel passage we just heard from Mark has a sense of urgency about it. We’re told to be watchful and alert. We’re told to stay awake and not be caught sleeping. We’re told that someone is coming, but we won’t know exactly when . . . and therefore, we better not get caught off guard.
Do we believe it? Do we embrace it? Are we ready? Are we watchful?
I said earlier that Advent is ultimately different for each of us, that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to this holy season. Well, that’s only partially true. You see, in one sense, the gift we can expect to receive this Christmas morning, the gift we are waiting for, is exactly the same for each of us. And this gift of course, is not a thing but a person . . . the person of Jesus. He is the one each of us is waiting for, longing for, hoping for. At least . . . that’s the idea . . . that’s what our faith invites us to embrace. But the “something” that this “someone” (Jesus) wants to provide for us is in fact unique to each one of us . . . tailored to our own needs, wants, and possibilities.