What is going on??
This should be a season of rejoicing, fun, light, peace and goodwill.
Of anticipation, hope, longing.
The word Advent means "coming" or "arrival."
The focus of the entire season is the celebration of the birth of Jesus the Christ in his First Advent, and the anticipation of the return of Christ the King in his Second Advent.
Thus, Advent is far more than simply marking a 2,000 year old event in history.
It is celebrating a truth about God, the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God.
Advent is marked by a spirit of expectation, of anticipation, of preparation, of longing.
There is a yearning, a hope for deliverance by a God who has heard the cries of oppressed slaves and brought deliverance!
Instead I find I am discouraged, grumpy, gloomy even, disorganised, and stressed; I feel I have one-million-and-one things to do, and that each day that goes by ends in frustration and a sense of emptiness and failure... And so the 'Twenty-Fifth' approaches with a sense of foreboding, dread, and of shallow, pointless striving.
Should Advent, the lead-up to Christmas, really be this way?
I know for a fact, having spoken to many friends and acquaintances about this, that this is such a common phenomenon: everyone is rushing around, feeling burdened and under pressure. And everyone is spending way too much money on stuff that will either end up on rubbish dumps or literally down the drains!!
I guess this frustration is maybe all part of the tension between the 'now' and the 'not yet', part of the calling that I, as a Christian, signed up to, of 'being in the world but not of the world'.
But I never seem to get the balance quite right. And this leaves me feeling exhausted, and frustrated. I want to be able to truthfully say that I love Christmas, and the whole lead-up to it. A lot of people get so excited about Christmas. And other people (or maybe they are the same people...?) plan for Christmas months in advance: they start buying their presents, cards and stamps in the January sales (which incidentally start on Boxing day, December 26th...!!), while shops and restaurants start advertising Christmas products and services the minute the summer holidays have ended!
To me this feels over-the-top. But then I go to the other extreme. Quite unintentionally, of course...! So that the first of December always catches me by surprise. And I panic. Then I tell myself off for panicking…
(argh I never managed to finish this!! …to be continued… next Christmas no doubt...)