I love the Advent Season. When I was a kid, that meant that I loved Advent calendars.
Opening little doors every day to find hidden words, pictures, or best of all, CHOCOLATE, gave me a delighted little thrill that is still very warm in my memory. I confess, the deeper, symbolic meaning of Advent was lost on me. Back then, Advent was all about counting down to Christmas.
What child who receives presents on Christmas morning doesn’t shiver with excitement as the day draws nearer and nearer? My parents were generous, but also practical. My older sister sister and I knew that the only toys or games that we would own would be gifts received for either our birthdays or Christmas. And we both have April birthdays. So, during that long, long period between the end April and the end of December, whenever we might desire something, from a toy to a jacket, we would hear from our mother, “Christmas is coming.” Even in July!
The Season through the Eyes of a Child
Once the Christmas tree was put up, always by the eighth of December, festively wrapped packages would begin to appear beneath its boughs. Hidden in those wonderful boxes, were a mix of practical necessities, like socks, hangers, or trash cans for our rooms, and things for fun, like a new game to play together (boardgames back then) or clothes for our Barbies, or stuffed animals (well, that was my thing.) Delightful treasures to be revealed come Christmas Eve and Christmas Day! And we always knew that, on Christmas morning, there would be a new doll waiting for us on the fireplace hearth from “Santa Claus”.
Like many other children, I often found it hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve because of the thrill of anticipation. Carole and I would wake up very early, sometimes too early, and lie awake in the dark trying to be good and patiently wait. Once the morning light was barely visible, we would beg our parents to get out of bed. Then, we would itch and squirm and try not to whine, “Hurry up!” as they put on their bathrobes, got out the camera, and set it up in the living room in order to capture the looks on our faces as we rounded the corner at the end of the hallway.
Even when we outgrew Santa Claus, the waiting of Christmas morning was fun. When I stopped playing with baby dolls, I collected dolls of porcelain, so the when-can-I-come-out-of-my-bedroom march still had great appeal to me. When I outgrew even these, I still had not outgrown the anticipating, the happy release and discovery… but, reluctantly, I let go of the little parade.
There was something about the waiting, the wonder, the knowing that something beautifully good was there but not yet being able to see it – and then that heady moment of turning the corner to see. It was not even about the particular object or objects sitting there on the hearth, the presents that were now mine. It was the joy of turning, like the joy of opening those little Advent doors, the nearly uncontrollable thrill of revealing a delight. If I was ever disappointed by the particular doll sitting in front of the fireplace, I don’t remember it. What I remember, so vividly that it still brings a little tingle to my cheeks, is the anticipation and moment of revealing.
Everything that I’ve described about Advent and Christmas to this point of this reflection has little to do with Christ, because, quite frankly, the seasons my childhood were not · Christ. Well, not exactly. Although we may have outgrown Advent calendars and surprises on Christmas morning, these things are not absent from my grown-up celebrations as a fully believing Christian.
Looking Forward: What a Christian Believes at Christmas
I believe that God, the Infinite, Eternal Creator and Master of the Universe, the Source of All Being, the Author of All Life, Mysterious and Profound, Beyond All Imagining, condescended to become one of us and was born of a virgin in a real place at a real-time. A lot of words, but, do you know what they mean?
God is beyond all knowing, all telling. And, yet… God came to us and dwelt among us as one of us. That really happened. This is the Christian faith and the Christian testament of fact. Almighty and all-powerful God became incarnate and was born an infant. That’s what we are celebrating and testifying to at Christmas.
Christ’s Mass. God sends His Divine Word forth to us in the flesh. What is mysteriously hidden beyond all fathoming is miraculously and intimately revealed in the most profoundly awe-inspiring way possible: in weakness, in a helpless infant to be loved, to be received into our arms and our hearts…. Can you believe it??? Do you?
The Symbolic Meaning of Advent, Which Means “The Coming”
So, the really true meaning of Christmas and Christianity itself is very like the opening of those little calendar doors, the turning of the corner on Christmas morning, the uncovering of a wrapped gift – what was hidden is becoming revealed. It’s not completely revealed. Not yet.
We are living in the time and place of revelation, in the action of revealing. Revelation is not yet complete, it transpires throughout the whole of our lives on earth. Sometimes, we wait in darkness, uncomfortable, struggling to be good, to do the right thing and wait until the right moment. There may even be periods in our lives when we might not really care about what is waiting for us, about the hidden happiness, too oblivious in our own practical, mundane thoughts to think about what will be. But… if we allow ourselves the blessing of faith, then, we do wait in anticipation, wondering, trembling in that place that is near but not quite there, opening the door, turning the corner, pulling away the coverings – living our lives in the place of advent, knowing that there will come a moment when all will be revealed.
And oh the endless, ecstatic joy there will be then……
Christmas is coming.
© 2017 Christina Chase
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Caleb Woods ”
Although crippled by disease, I'm fully alive in love. I write about the terrible beauty and sacred wonder of life, while living with physical disability and severe dependency. A revert to the Catholic faith through atheism, I'm not afraid to ask life's big questions. I explore what it means to be fully human through my weekly blog and have written a book: It's Good to Be Here, published by Sophia Institute Press.