Whenever I hear people talk about Christmas, I hear the word “stress.” Even enthusiastic holiday-celebraters admit to a certain amount of dread this time of year. And with good reason – our society depicts Christmas as a set goal with pre-determined outcomes. There seem to be a lot of “shoulds” connected with Christmas. There “should” be a perfectly decorated tree with beautifully wrapped gifts. There “should” be delicious food for happy guests (who all get along) around a creatively decorated table. Carefully decorated cookies “should” be baked with happy, well-rested, non-whiny children. And everything “should” be perfectly prepared by this unmovable deadline. Is it any wonder that Christmas can feel like an overwhelming burden?
The season of Advent, which begins on December 1st, is very different. While Christmas can feel like a marathon march to an exhausted finish line, Advent is the gift of a journey with an unknown destination. Christmas is about completion; Advent is discover and wondering. Christmas might feel proscribed; Advent is surprise and discovery.
Advent has a sense of mystery about it as we follow, search, wonder, and venture out in faith. It is an opportunity to trust as God leads us into an unknown future. The possibilities are as unlimited as our Creator.
During Advent we remember those who said “yes” to invitations in the past. The shepherds hear Good News of great joy and go on a journey of discovery to “go and see” what God has done. The wise men respond to the flickering light of a star and place their faith in God out of the familiar and into the unknown. Mary begins her life-changing journey with an unshakeable faith. Joseph trusts that these incomprehensible events will reveal God’s love and purpose.
Into each journey is interwoven the theme of “do not be afraid.”
This Advent, do not be afraid…
although you venture into the unknown.
although you feel very alone.
although the end result is not clear.
The season of Advent reminds us that God is “Emmanuel,” which means “always with us.” What new thing do you imagine or dream of? Where might God be inviting you to go? What unknown is placed before you and where is God in that? What do you need to leave behind in order to discover this new thing that God is doing?
Advent is about mystery and possibility and wonder. A candle glows to provide just enough light to take the next step. The promise of Advent is filled with possibility and new life.
Where will your Advent journey take you?
I wish you the joy and blessings of Advent.