Are we ready, willing to truly mark Advent?

Published 1:16 am Saturday, December 7, 2013

By the Rev. Cindy Howard

In many church traditions, such in the Episcopal Church, we are in the season of Advent, when we prepare for Christ’s coming.

In our world, it has looked like Christmas for months. If Advent is supposed to prepare us for Christmas, then perhaps we should have done it last summer.

If you ventured out into Black Friday, you may already be sick of Christmas.The thought of hearing “Are you ready for Christmas?” one more time may already make you nauseous.

What are we to do with Advent? We could join the world in its mad rush to Dec. 25th. Advent is a lovely, old custom, but we have shopping to do, gifts to wrap, parties to attend, cookies to bake, Santa to see, cards to write, trees to decorate. We could do that, and a lot of us will.

However, I’ve realized that Advent is more necessary than ever. We live in a culture, where people give thanks for blessings on Thursday and rush out before the day is over to grab more stuff and to knock others out of way to grab it if necessary. We desperately need an alternative way of doing things. Advent, if we take it seriously and do it right, can be that alternative.

To take Advent seriously we must be awake to all the times and places that God breaks into our world. How can we open ourselves to God’s presence in days before Dec. 25?

Maybe we can make a vow not to overcommit. Are there things we don’t have to do, places we don’t have to be, so that we can open our lives to God during these days? So, we don’t wear ourselves physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially – arriving at church on Christmas Eve too tired, too frustrated, too sick of what the world defines as “Christmas” to celebrate?

Maybe we can make a vow to be in worship on the Sundays of Advent. Perhaps to take on a discipline of more time for prayer each day, more time to read scripture or some devotional material.

Maybe we can make a vow to be engaged in ministries of service.

Maybe we can make our Christmas gift lists, add up the total we plan to spend, and then cut it in half, spending the part we save to make a gift to a cause helping people who are in need.

Maybe we will be a little more mindful each moment of each day – seeing Jesus in the faces of those around us, recognizing the image of God in all our brothers and sisters.

I invite you, whatever your faith tradition, to take Advent seriously this year. The question isn’t “Are you ready for Christmas?” but rather “Are you ready for Advent?”


The Rev. Cindy Howard is rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.