Why do we prepare during the season of Advent?
I’ve been meditating on the idea of preparation this year. As some of us were reminded at our Advent devotion this past Tuesday with Father Nick Hull at Christ Episcopal Church, this season was built in before Christmas to ensure we are slowing down to pay attention to our own souls before we jump from one celebration to the next. This season is to pace ourselves and be fully present with God on the journey toward celebration.
Edward Hays said: “Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present.”
But of course, with a pile of parties to attend and food to bake and halls to deck, we struggle to slow down long enough to really appreciate what it means to prepare our souls. We also sometimes forget that it was in waiting that Israel so often found God, and that we too carry on the tradition of finding God in the midst of a time of wandering and waiting. And friends, when we find God, we also find our own brokenness and seek to right our relationship to God.
John R. Brokhoff said: “The church set aside this four-week pre-Christmas season as a time of spiritual preparation for Christ’s coming. It is a time of quiet anticipation. If Christ is going to come again into our hearts, there must be repentance. Without repentance, our hearts will be so full of worldly things that there will be ‘no room in the inn’ for Christ to be born again…”
For these four weeks, we stop in worship to anticipate Christ’s coming, to remember the waiting Israel did, to remember our own spiritual waiting where our lives have been changed through repentance, or turning away from those things that distract us, harm us or others, take up too much of our lives, or cause us to forget God’s power in our lives.
Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t still make our snickerdoodles or wear our red sweaters or go caroling on chilly nights. But it does mean that if we don’t spend our worship and devotion focused on the preparation for Christ’s coming, we miss out on what that moment of Christ’s arrival really means. Just as Easter means little without Good Friday, so too Christ’s coming as God-with-us means little if our souls have not been prepared to accept all that coming means in our lives and our world.
“Waiting is a period of learning. The longer we wait, the more we hear about him for whom we are waiting.” –Henri Nouwen