There’s a popular Christmas tune by Andy Williams entitled “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” We generally associate this with the Christmas season, but for me this song fits perfectly in Advent. O.K. – the compatibility of this song and Advent ends after the title, but regardless, I consider Advent the most wonderful time of the year. The reason is this: I was born during Advent! No, not really. Well I was born then, but that’s not why it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Advent is a season of preparation, a season of waiting for Christ’s coming. Not only His coming in the manger at Christmas, but more importantly His coming again in glory, riding on the clouds to save His people.
What is so special about this season, why do I think it’s so wonderful? At best it seems nice but unimportant, and at worst pointless and forgettable. The world is in full Christmas mode during the season of Advent: lights and stockings are hung, presents are bought and wrapped, parties are had, Santa is in the stores, etc. But even in the midst of these festivities, there is still a sense of waiting in the world, there is still something important about Christmas Day. It’s almost like we do our own little versions of Christmas so that when we actually get there we will be most prepared to celebrate it well. This tends to clash with the liturgical season a bit. The Church clings to purple and pink while the world around it explodes with red and green, even the O Antiphons (which are reserved until after Dec. 17th) are found ringing through the air, not to mention the Christmas carols! Advent seems to be losing the fight, how can it be so wonderful?
The reason I find this season so wonderful is because Advent is a microcosm of the Christian life. Advent is a time to orient ourselves to the end, a time to acknowledge our finitude and look towards that judgment that awaits us all. But it is not a time of fear. It is a time of joyous anticipation. When Christ comes in glory, after the trials and tribulations, after He has separated the sheep from the goats, His people will follow Him into eternity. If we strive to live lives of faith, and to follow where God calls us, we should have nothing to fear!
In Advent the Church calls us to prepare ourselves; and – no matter how hard you try to avoid its preemptive-ness – the world calls us to celebrate and be joyous. The Church provides the anticipation, the world cloaks it in joy. That should be the definition of our life every day. Days lived in joy, days longing for the Lord, both in the small ways He comes to us in our daily lives and in how He will come again in glory. There is plenty to be upset about in our world, plenty of things to worry about, plenty of things that invite us to be fearful. But there is also great goodness to be found in those around us, and in ourselves. We all live in preparation for our end, it is up to us how we will prepare.
Advent is a great opportunity to spend quiet moments in prayer and reflection, to see how God has called us in our lives and how we have responded. It also gives us the chance to listen to how He is calling us to follow Him now. It can be hard to hear Him over the ringing of silver bells, but when has our world ever stopped for us to pray anyway? Advent just makes sense to me. It is not always the easiest season, but the Way of the Cross is not always easy. The best part, is that we know the end is worth it. Just as the world waits for Santa to make his magical ride through the skies, so the Christian waits for Christ when He comes again on the clouds, not with the ringing of sleigh bells, but with the Hallelujah bells ringing out the glory of God!