I used to find it quite difficult to "get into the Christmas spirit" around this time of year--constitutionally I didn't seem cut out for cheer in early or mid-December--so it came as a blessed relief to discover the Catholic tradition of Advent as a penitential season, with the Christmas season not beginning until (you guessed it) December 25.
Advent, what's that? From my United Church childhood I remember the lighting of the Advent candles, week by week. (Thanks now, Curt Jester, for the sidebar graphic.) In recent years, though, I was surrounded by Mennonites and Baptists, neither of which group really does Advent, so far as I've seen. The only Advent hymn I knew well was "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel."
Advent is a time of preparation, of anticipation, of learning to live in hope even in the face of frustration. Until Christ comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, things around us are not going to be perfect, and throughout our earthly lives we will continue to stumble, but we just have to get on with it. The prospect of the Second Coming with its attendant final judgment does tend to concentrate the mind wonderfully, not completely unlike a man's knowledge that he is to be hanged in the morning (but thank God for his mercy--that's all I can say). We wait, we clean house: "Prepare we in our hearts a home / Where such a mighty guest may come."
This is all far better, incidentally, than the season of Advertisement as parodied by the Curt Jester.
Anyone who's been watching this space lately will have noticed the tumbleweed blowing through. I'll say just that various situations have been weighing upon me, and that spiritual battles have left me weary. Your continuing prayers would be appreciated.
Late last week, I decided I needed to clear my mind, so I took up the kind invitation of friends in Edmonton to visit for a few days. I met some converts and enjoyed an evening's conversation with felix hominum (though regrettably I still have not ridden in the blessed minivan--next time). I'm feeling a little better now.