This year I was not prepared for Halloween and the trick-or-treaters that would be upon me as soon as it grew dark. In my defense, I had just moved into my first condo, and I am not yet accustom to the seasonal rhythm of home ownership. I rushed to the store and ran to the back section that held seasonal Halloween items. Or at least it had held Halloween stuff. It was October 31st at 2pm, and yet everything was transitioning from black and orange to red and green as workers scrambled to unload boxes and move out the ‘old’ merchandise. I had to ask where the candy was and they pointed me to an aisle filled with Halloween candy that was already discounted and sat with already-picked-through costumes and decor. That was it – Halloween was packed up and it hadn’t even grown dark yet.
I could have just written that off as one rushed holiday, and truthfully Halloween isn’t a liturgical holiday; so while I enjoy it, I am not devastated that we don’t pause too long for it. But it isn’t just Halloween that is being rushed. This weekend I was at an art faire when a woman wished me Happy Holidays. Happy Holidays… it isn’t even the middle of November yet. I am not sure how I responded – I think a confused “you too” was all I mustered. Am I the only one who doesn’t think it is time to wish people happy holidays yet? I walked out into the parking lot, and over the sound system, as if reminding me that I am the minority, was a Christmas song. Ironically, it was the 12 days of Christmas… more like the 40 days of Christmas. It seems as if every year the Holidays start earlier and earlier in the consumer world. So what about the holiday season in the church and why does it matter?
Not every church celebrates it, but there is a season that prepares us for Christmas. The season of Advent. The season of waiting. It begins four Sundays prior to Christmas Eve. There are varying accounts to how the observance of Advent began. Some say it started as early as the disciples, and there is historical proof that fasting was observed as early as 490. I could go on and on about the background and history of Advent and the different ways that different traditions observe it, but this isn’t that blog. Whenever it started and whatever it’s roots, I know that I need to observe it.
The idea of preparing our hearts for the coming of Christ makes sense to me. I am a busy person. Too busy. I sometimes wear my busy-ness like a badge of honor. This is easy to do in my line of work, and even easier to do in the part of the country where I live. I think as a singleton I am worried about missing out, so I tend to say yes to social invitations even though my work schedule keeps me busy. I am afraid of being lonely so I overcommit and overbook. But I am not alone in overcommitting. Many of my friends answer “busy” when asked how they are. But during Advent, I am constantly challenged to slow down and to wait, which is counterintuitive to the season. I think that is why the rush of the ‘holidays’ bothers me so much. I want to challenge myself to say “no” more this holiday season and say “yes” more to the season of Advent. To slowing down, to really waiting and anticipating the coming of Christ.