The Spirit of Advent

“Counting the Days to Christmas” is the title of a Christian devotion-and-activity book I started some years ago for children and their parents or grandparents. Maybe someday I’ll finish it. It’s hard to believe that we’re counting those days to Christmas already this year.

Advent calendars start counting on December first. They’re a favorite tradition of mine, and one of the first things that get put up in our home. But much of our secular society starts counting (and shopping) even before Thanksgiving. This year I came close to that by attending our writers’ group booth at a Christmas Art & Crafts Faire the very weekend after Thanksgiving. I was amazed at how many people were already into a kind of Christmas spirit!

For two centuries of centuries now, Christians have shared in “the spirit of Advent” (my phrase) before Christmas Day and its own twelve-day worship season. Advent is primarily a time of waiting. Years ago, Pastor Sharon Delgado put it this way:
We join in the joy and celebration of the season, while also seeking something more. We hope to grow spiritually and to come to know God in Christ more fully just when the stores are at their fullest, our “to do” lists are longest, and our finances are stretched to (or beyond) the limit. . . . We are aware of an incompleteness and a longing that we know only God can fulfill. And so, in the midst of the busy-ness, we wait. We wait, we hope, and we prepare.

So now we are counting the days to Christmas in several ways. No doubt we are engaging in pre-Santa activities, but hopefully we’re also preparing for God’s deeper fulfillment, acknowledging our longing for a fuller relationship with God in Christ, and celebrating God’s fulfilled promises all along the way.

Happy Advent!

Betsy Schwarzentraub

See also: Anticipation and Advent