Growing up, Advent was a HUGE deal in the Stone household. Every year we had a theme, and for the four weeks before Christmas, every evening ended with us gathered in the living room to do a devotion that centered on the theme. One year it was names of God, one year it was the tribes of Jacob, and another year it was Messianic prophecies. After the devotion, we would sing Christmas carols from the same outdated, falling apart bright green paper carol books.
Please don’t get any Normal Rockwell images of perfection. Nightly Advent also meant all out fights over who got to snuff out the candles on the wreath, complaining that my mom made us do it even when we felt to old for it, and some members of the family (read: ZACH) being all Grinch-like about any carol other than “Oh come oh come Emmanuel,” which is the world’s most depressing and dour Christmas carol.
And I love Advent, because in the midst of a season that has been stripped of all its actual meaning, Advent has remained pure, untainted by the secularization of Christmas. It is the season of waiting, of remembering that the entire Christian life is one of waiting. We wait for justice. We wait for the end of horrors like what happened in Connecticut last week. We wait for right to win out over wrong. We wait for peace to come again and dwell on earth. During the four weeks before Christmas, we wait with eager expectation for the birth of Christ, which is the promise of all those things. And every year, Advent comes again, reminding us of our need to wait, and our promised hope.
But this year, it seems like everywhere I look I see Advent calendars divorced from Advent itself. They are all over Pinterest right now, hundreds of DIY extravaganzas to make December even more exciting than usual. And on the whole, they are nothing but a caloric countdown to Christmas, stuffing us with candy or chocolate or toys as we move closer to the materialistic gluttony that comes with Christmas morning. Don’t get me wrong – I love all that stuff. I have also been known to eat an entire Advent calendar in the first week… oops. But I can’t help but think of the pointlessness of Advent calendars if they are separated from actual Advent itself. For what are we then waiting, hoping expectantly, longing? A pile of gifts and some extra vacation time?
So by all means, let’s make some shabby chic DIY Advent calendars covered in feathers and vintage postcards or whatever. But let’s remember not to divorce waiting, from what we are waiting for, something that is much better than a bunch of gifts and food.
*Images from here.