A few years ago I overheard my youngest son whispering to a friend who was visiting for a playdate. Standing in the middle of the living room, surrounded by Rubbermaid containers brimming with ornaments, sighing and mumbling under my breath as I wrestled a strand of twinkle lights around an unruly swag of garland, I heard Rowan say, “My mom doesn’t like Christmas.”
I still remember the look on his friend’s face, a mix of horror and bewilderment. I knew what he was thinking: “What kind of mother doesn’t like Christmas?”
Advent, which is derived from the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming,” is traditionally a time of preparation. The four-week period leading up to December 25 is intended as a period of contemplation and reflection, a time in which we anticipate the arrival of the Messiah. We look back in remembrance at the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago, and we look ahead in eager anticipation of his Second Coming. In Church history, Advent was considered a quiet time—an opportunity to “treasure in our hearts,” the coming of our Savior in human incarnation.
Somehow, though, we have lost the true meaning of Advent. Amid our frantic physical preparations for Christmas—the decorating, the shopping, the socializing—we’ve lost the time and space to spiritually prepare our hearts. We’ve lost adventus—the anticipation of the future arrival of Jesus—and succumbed instead to the busyness, obligations, and responsibilities of the present.
We’ve replaced Advent with more of everything but Jesus.