I’m not entirely sure why, but during my eight years in the seminary, the Season of Advent was always my favorite time of year. Perhaps it was because the daylight was short and time in the chapel seemed more cozy. Perhaps it was because of the light of the Advent wreath and the near-daily singing of Creator of the Stars of Night. For some reason, Advent always struck me during those years. It still does. It’s still my favorite season of the liturgical year.
It seems as though we humans like waiting expectantly for things. Most of don’t like waiting and most of us could work on our patience at times, but expectantly waiting is something different. Before a big event, we are happy to get to the venue a bit early “lest we miss out.” We are anxious to celebrate parties and events. Before sports games, the tailgating experience can be even more fun that the game itself. There is something about the buildup before something big that we humans enjoy. When we look at children and young people, this is even more clear: the buildup to birthdays and Christmas is almost bigger than the main event.
Advent is a time of expectant waiting and of preparation. Because we know that the Lord will come, we aren’t impatient. We can, however, make ill use of the time we have been given to prepare. It’s all too easy to push our preparation off for another day. Before we know it, Christmas is here and we hardly did anything to prepare. The popular Advent hymn People Look East, written by the British writer Eleanor Farjeon (1881–1965), puts this preparation in metaphorical language: Make your house fair as you are able. Trim the hearth and set the table.
We should not be impatient, therefore, during Advent. We know that the Lord will come at Christmas. It is our duty to wait expectantly and prepare our hearts. If we can give such energy to birthdays, weddings, baby showers, and tailgate parties, we can certainly give more to our Lord. It always bothers me to see people toss out their Christmas tree the day after Christmas or when radio stations stop playing Christmas music the day after Christmas. We are preparing our hearts for Christmas (which lasts until the feast of the Baptism of the Lord in the current calendar). It reminds me of a text from the Liturgy of the Hours for the morning of December 24th: Today you will know the Lord is coming, and in the morning you will see his glory. Happy Advent to you all!