We are approaching the end of November and you know what that means! I am not thinking of American Thanksgiving or Black Friday sales. I am thinking about advent. In my earlier years, advent meant one thing to me and that was a calendar with chocolate behind each date.
I would stare at that cardboard calendar with its cartoonish picture of a manger complete with cows, sheep, shepherds, Mary, Joseph, and Jesus — all illuminated by a giant star. Every passing day was rewarded with another dose of that poor quality chocolate, which to an eight year old seemed like it was hand-crafted by a swiss confectionary. What I remember about advent was that it was sweet and rewarding.
I once heard a story about someone who saw a nativity scene in front of a church and remarked “Why are Christians trying to make Christmas about Jesus rather than Santa?” This is a legitimate question if the origin of the Christmas holiday has vanish from the public consciousness.
Advent means “coming or arrival” and Christians around the world use the month leading up to December 25th to celebrate the arrival of Jesus over 2000 years ago in a town called Bethlehem in Israel. December 25th would not have been the actual day that Jesus was born on, but it is used to signify and celebrate the birth of Jesus.
The very name ‘Christmas’ is made up of ‘Christ’, which was a term used for Jesus and means anointed one, and ‘mas’ which refers to the celebration of the meaning of the death of Jesus which is called the Eucharist or Lord’s supper today. The meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of God’s special blessed one who died so that people could live at peace with God.
It is no wonder that Christmas is known as a time of peace, good cheer, and joy. We even give gifts to one another to celebrate, which is something I enjoy very much and even more so as I give gifts to my little boy and watch him open them with excitement.
In these precious moments, I admit I am not necessarily thinking of a baby born 2000 years ago, but the act of giving gifts and creating a joyful experience is all about celebrating that event and its ongoing effect in my life and in the world.
As I reflect on my 8 year old self, enjoying the sweetness of a chocolate advent calendar, I realize that I had one thing right: advent is about eager expectation of something good.
Whatever your belief about the days leading up to Christmas, I pray it will be a time of joy and celebration, even during a time when all of this is going to be very different from what we have known in the past. I will leave you with these words of Jesus. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you.” (john 14:27)