ARE WE READY FOR ADVENT?
Quick answer to a badly posed question: No. Advent is the preparation process, not the accomplished reality. Advent is the period of time we have in order to try to be ready for Christmas.
HOPE MINGLED WITH DREAD. I think Charles Moore captures my own sense of the situation as we turn toward Advent (it begins tomorrow):
"Though Advent (literally 'arrival') has been observed for centuries as a time to contemplate Christ's birth, most people today acknowledge it only with a blank look. For the vast majority of us, December flies by in a flurry of activities, and what is called 'the holiday season' turns out to be the most stressful time of the year."
"It is also a time of contrasting emotions. We are eager, yet frazzled; sentimental, yet indifferent. One minute we glow at the thought of getting together with our family and friends; the next we feel utterly lonely. Our hope is mingled with dread, our anticipation with despair. We sense the deeper meanings of the season but grasp at them in vain; and in the end, all the bustle leaves us frustrated and drained."
TOWARD THE MANGER. I hope Charles Moore's conclusion isn't the last word for our Advent experience. As one who is assigned to lead a faith community into and through Advent, I know the challenge of drawing folks' hearts toward the manger amid cultural-commercial Christmas. I will try to help our community use the spiritual senses of (1) an awareness of time and (2) a Spirit-listening heart to prepare for the authentic Christmas that awaits beyond the cultural-commercial one.