The stage upon which our lives play out in this age is one of tension, delay, and angst. We live in between the comings of Jesus, and our hearts must somehow straddle the gap that yawns between them, ever balancing the acts of remembering and hoping upon the fulcrum of a heart of love for Jesus. Advent beckons us to yield to both in tandem and draw them together in one movement of adoration toward Jesus. The season summons us to move outside of ourselves and today – the two haunts where our emotions most often linger – and to actually think about Jesus. Taking up arms in all the regions in our lives where Christ has become peripheral and secondary, we fight to make Him central and supreme. Despite my frequent remorse over the fact, prolonged meditation on the life of Jesus and unmitigated yearning for His return are simply two of the most difficult postures of the soul to maintain.
The wisdom of a purposeful, cyclical returning underlies the tradition of the historic Church calendar. Throughout the year one is taken back to all of the events that form the basis of our faith, both corporately and individually, and pointed toward the promises that form the substance of our hope. So the objection that Jesus probably wasn’t born on December 25th misses the point entirely. Advent and Christmas are not intended to answer the question, “when was Jesus’ birthday?” Are our hearts prone to astonishing dullness and do we need to force them to bow again at the breathtaking wonder of the Incarnation and break again with mourning for Jesus’ return? Advent, instead, stands before these questions that loom over our existence and screams, “yes! hasten to the manger and gaze toward the heavens.” If celebrating Advent might hold the possibility of liberating me from the tyrannical inertia of life that draws me away from beholding Jesus, then I am excited about Advent. If you would like to learn more about celebrating Advent for the first time, or perhaps deepen your own traditions, I encourage you to follow the posts from Karli (my wife) on our family blog in the weeks leading up to Christmas.