I’ll be the first to admit that I am way, way behind on Christmas this year. As of today, there’s tree, no stockings, no lights, no presents wrapped. In fact I’ve failed to invoke any spirit of festiveness in my household except for a half-finished screening of Elf, which was interrupted because the host (ahem, me) starting dozing off at 7:45 p.m.
It’s been a rough year.
But as an Anglican, I’m encouraged to hear my priests reminding me, again and again, that advent is a season of personal examination, repentance, and waiting. More like Lent than like Easter.
Yes, we are a lot of fun to be around, you’re welcome any Sunday.
But I’m finding their cheerless (sorry, not sorry) approach to the season especially helpful this year. While I love a good chocolate advent calendar as much as the next person, I know the point of advent is not to indulge or prolong our feelings of holiday magic, but to heighten our sense of waiting for God. To remember how much we need redemption. To let ourselves stop to feel the ache of a broken creation so that we can appreciate salvation when it arrives, screaming and naked and needy, in a barn.
Maybe the pandemic and its deprivations have prepared us perfectly for Christmas. So instead of consulting your to-do list, ask yourselves these questions:
Have you successfully weathered school closures without evicting your children? Have you stayed home to protect healthcare workers and medically vulnerable citizens when you really wanted to eat tapas in a bar? Have you convinced a small child to wear a mask in the store instead of using it as a parachute for one of his toy dinosaurs? Have you boiled water for mac and cheese when you wanted to serve Cliff bars? Have you wiped down the kitchen counter a millionth time instead of booking a private hotel room in Greece?
Have you been forced to reckon with your fragility as a human being? Have you wondered where your next meal would come from? Have you been scared, needy, lonely?
Have you asked God for help?
You’re prepared. Beloved, you’re prepared.