The Magic of Advent

A winter night in front of college hall.

December 16, 2019
Erik Mertens, Office of Mission and Ministry

“In the tender compassion of our God the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

– Luke 1:78-79

        I’ve always loved Christmas and the perfectly magical season of Advent leading up to it.  Even now in my 30s, this time of year brings me back to the wonder and imagination of my childhood.  There’s something about God coming to be with us humans that sparkles with deep and divine intensity.

And then there’s the scheduling and work and parties to attend (or host!) and academic pressures and social anxieties and every other kind of anxieties and family dynamics and real financial strain and travel in the worst possible weather.  Lucky us!  Being an adult during Advent, especially as we move ever closer to that magical Christmas day, can really challenge that childhood wonder.

This Advent, I’ve found myself more stressed and despondent than usual.  What I wouldn’t give to go back to those Advents where I spent my evenings making Lego nativity scenes under the family tree and watching Christmas movies with my Dad.  And Mom would make us hot chocolate.  Sometimes – whether it’s during Finals Week as a college student, or trying to pay all the December bills as a “grown up” – we have to make our own Advent magic.  And our own hot chocolate.  Yes, we feel the very real need to make this time magical for the children in our lives.  But we must find some time (whatever we can) to take care of ourselves, as well.

Because really, that’s what Christ’s incarnation is all about.  The magic and nostalgia and fuzzy nativity scenes all encompass the true, gritty, earthy reality of what happened that first Christmas day.  God intentionally took on the messiness of humanity.  God chose to enter the stress and despondence of our lives.  God chose to share our anxieties, pain, hurt, and violent existence.  God even chose to share it to the utmost end – a traumatic death experience.  Maybe that’s something we can relate to. The hardships of life, whatever they might be, are no mystery to our God.  In Jesus, we have the ultimate Friend and Companion, who then did something about all this pain 33 years after He was born in Bethlehem.  The magical anticipation of Advent is really the embodiment of our desperate plea for God to accompany us in all the non-magical parts of life, and to save us from them.  We celebrate because that is exactly what Jesus did.

So, feel free to be content in the stress and hardships of this season.  It’s okay.  And, if you want, feel free to make yourself a cup of hot chocolate and make some of your own magic this season.  We are free to do so because our God freely chose to be with us.  Emmanuel. 

“Advent is synonymous with hope; not the vain waiting for a faceless god, but concrete and certain trust in the return of Him who has already visited us.”  - St. John Paul II