“Isn’t Advent supposed to be a happy time?” It’s a good question. And the short answer - in good Anglican fashion - is yes, and no. Yes, Advent is a season infused with hope and joy. After all we’re getting ready for the birth of Jesus. And the birth of any child is cause for celebration, let alone the Christ child at the heart of Christian faith. So, much like the birth of any child, we use this season as a chance to get ready for new life to fill our familiar lives with all of the energy, challenges, and opportunities that come with the arrival of Jesus. Spiritually speaking we use the season of Advent to clean up and clean out all of those spaces in our hearts and minds that have gotten messy, cluttered, or just plain forgotten during the course of the year. It feels happy, just like transforming that old “guest room” (which was really just a place to store all of our clutter) into a freshly painted nursery. Those kinds of projects are life-giving and productive. They can even help us feel more alive before the child is born - so rejoice! But this is also where the comparison ends because...
No, Advent is a season touched by sorrow. After all, we know what eventually happens to the Christ child on Good Friday. And Christian faith invites us to see ourselves as unwitting actors (at least) in the crucifixion of Jesus. So, much like any unjust trial, we use this season as a chance to get ready for God’s response to any darkness that troubles this world - including whatever darkness we happen to find in ourselves. Spiritually speaking we use the season of Advent to clean up and clean out all of those spaces in our hearts and minds where we keep our pride, anger, or jealousy during the course of the year. It feels sad to be honest about the dark places in our lives, especially when we realize that we’ve become unwitting actors (at least) in some of this world’s brokenness.
During this season we’re invited to keep the yes and the no of Advent together. If we simply focus on the yes, we’re not being honest about the brokenness in this world; let alone God’s willingness to do anything about it. If we simply focus on the no, we’re not being honest about the new life we find in Jesus. And the real joy of Christmas is just that: Jesus. Our faith rarely settles for easy answers but it does invest everything - “our souls and bodies” - in the life, death, and resurrection of this one person. The birth of Jesus is just around the corner. So rejoice! And get ready.
The Rev’d. Eric M. Hillegas