Advent is observed by the church as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. The word Advent comes from Latin word adventus which means"coming" or "arrival" and in Greek it is the word parousia which was used to describe the coming of a King or in this case about Christ's second coming. So with these meanings in mind it is for many Christians that Advent is the anticipation of Christ coming from these two perspectives of the ancient longing for the Messiah and being alert for His coming again. It is about expectant waiting and the hope coming into the world.
When I was a child I would get so excited during Advent about the preparations for Christmas: the presents, the tree, the decorations, wrapping paper and the wonderful scents in the air of balsam and pine and especially the rich and succulent food prepared by my Grandmother. The anticipation alone would keep me awake at night. I would get so excited and anxious that I also could not enjoy the days of Advent, because I would wish them away for Christmas! As I got older it was the anticipation of the people that would come and celebrate with us, usually some new boyfriend when I was teenager and young adult. My feelings were always about me and my expectations.
Growing up in a home with an active alcoholic Father and in a family that pretended that the problem did not exist was very hard, especially since I wanted my home life to be different, to be normal. Many holidays were about stepping around the elephant in the living room. This would make me dive further into my own thoughts and desires, to try and think a way out of what was in front of me. Part of my escapism was at church; the smell of incense, the brightly colored poinsettias, and the beautiful carols during the holidays! I loved them so much I would wrap the sights, fragrances, and sounds of the season around me like a beautiful multicolored quilt to protect me from the fear that was always on the edge of my horizon. I would be so tightly wrapped in anticipation that come Christmas Day all the excitement was gone and only disappointment was what I felt. This would usually come to a peak for me on Christmas Eve. This is when my family would meet at my Grandmother's for dinner and presents. It would end with midnight mass at our Episcopal church. In the dark cold night of Christmas Eve as I left church I would look at the stars and wonder why all my dreams and wishes did not come true. Why did God not stop my Father from drinking? I prayed to God that he would make my Father well. I wanted God to love me and save me from all the craziness of my life. What was I doing wrong? So Christmas Day would come and we were just back to a normal day and my same problems were still right in front of me. I couldn't see God's Love right in front of me, within me and all around me. I didn't know how to see God's infinite love because I had so many expectations and no hope.
All the hopelessness of crazy thinking led me to drinking. I began to see myself repeating history that I saw in my Father's drinking. It terrified me that I was becoming like him. However, I knew about AA and I knew there was a solution there. I had seen my Father's best friend become sober and his life change miraculously. At my end I knew I had lost everything that meant anything to me. I was on my knees in so much pain that the only way out was to give up. Surrender and defeat became my "gifts" that I had been looking for all those years ago as I struggled to find the baby Jesus that would come on Christmas and save me. Looking back. my life had been a continuous crazy kind of “Advent" as I lay in wait hoping for something or someone to rescue me from my life. I looked for salvation in people, places, and things and of course that did not work. I also didn't see I had a part to play in all of this. It was through the action of my surrender that my real Savior materialized before my eyes and I realized God had always been there waiting patiently on me. What a surprise! God celebrates Advent too! He waits patiently for us to give up!
It was eight and a half years ago that I finally gave up. I now believe Christmas comes to each of us when it is supposed to. It is the gift of dying before we die that saves us and helps us find our Messiah. I began to see Advent for what it truly is. It is a time of quiet expectation, not the expectation that is leading up to a resentment like most of our human expectations are, but a spiritual expectation where we know that God Loves us just the way we are and His grace is sufficient for us. We are made in the image of God, we see God in His examples of creation and soon one day we will all return to God as the very source we came from. While we are here in Advent let us be patient and full of hope in waiting and know that God is already here waiting just for us!