When it comes to decorations, I am a less-is-more-kind-of-girl. No blow-ups or outside Christmas light strands, no attic full of boxes of decorations. A pretty wreath, an average-sized tree, and a few simple trinkets. I do depart from my own simple decoration philosophy when it comes to one thing. I am a sucker for advent calendars. Seriously, we have a Jesse tree, a traditional Advent wreath, Trader Joe’s chocolate Advent calendars for each child, a set of Advent prints, and my children’s favorite, the Lego Advent Calendar (thanks, momma for introducing us to that 24-day drug).
I know, I know, its a bit excessive, but I adore Advent. I love how Advent reminds us that we are a waiting people and teaches me how to wait expectantly and patiently. I love how Advent teaches us to number our days as we watch the pregnant days come to fullness. I pray my children will learn to love Advent and its approaching Incarnation as much as they currently love little Lego treats revealed from behind hidden doors.
I desperately need to be reminded that we are not counting down the days to pretty packages or gingerbread houses or Christmas trees. While those are all lovely things, the gifts get lost, the gingerbread goes stale, and the trees litter our homes with two billion pine needles. I need to be reminded that we are counting down to the world as it was meant to be, to the Second Coming of the Prince of Peace. My soul desperately needs to remember that what we long for, what the earth groans for is not perpetual holiday season, but perpetual peace. And Christ Himself, His nearness, is our peace.
Frank Kermode wrote that when Christ intervened into time and space, “a new series of time began, and it was somehow, at least potentially, of a different quality.” He continues,”The incarnation entailed the intervention of God into human time, after which nothing could be as it was.”
Time of a different quality. That is what Christ allows us to experience as we live in between the two comings. Advent pushes me to look at time and live in time differently. In his letter to the Philippian Church, Paul talks about his own longing, expectancy as he feels torn between life on earth and a more full life with Christ through death.
He wrestles as he writes from a lonely prison cell:
“For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:19-20.
The word Paul uses for earnest expectation is the Greek word apokaradokia (sounds like supercalafragelisticexpialadocious to me, ha!), meaning thinking with head-outstretched with intense expectation. Think an Olympic runner straining forward on the homestretch, fighting through fatigue, pain, and exhaustion. It’s an active and aggressive word, not a gentle, hands-folded-neatly word. This waiting implies a turning away from the lesser and a striving toward the greater. Greek scholars say this word implies “abstraction and absorption,” abstraction from anything that might distract or hinder and absorption on what is coming.
It is a strained expectancy that pushes through loneliness, disappointment, monotony, suffering and the like. Oh, Lord, let me have an advent attitude, one that strains and strives to wait for that hope which will never disappoint. And not just for twenty plus days, but for twenty plus years or anything in between.