Let’s not skip Advent

When life gets hectic, Advent invites us to slow down. We all need that, writes Maggie Alsup.

Photo by Jonathan Chng on Unsplash

As we await the birth of the Christ Child in Advent, I just have one thing to say: let me have my Advent. I shout that every year as the capitalistic hold on Christmas moves up in the calendar. It seems like you can look around and see trees and garland, ornaments, door signs, and lights all being sold and put up in July.

It is no different in my office. Working with students and in Student Life means that holidays become a big deal. Those decorations and touches of home around the office are things students crave. We celebrate everything. This year is no different, but this year we seemed to have put up Christmas super early.

Before November 1 the tree was up. And it has gone downhill into Christmas from there. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I love the lights. I love the songs. I love the thrill and the joy that comes when I watch our students celebrate and enjoy the fun of the holiday.

But I also yearn for Advent. I need Advent. I need the time of waiting and preparing my heart for the Christ Child. I need the familiar stories that each Sunday of Advent brings. I need it all.

Most of my days are a mad dash from one meeting to the next. From worship planning to event planning to figuring out when to sleep and where grocery shopping will fit into the schedule. It is fast-paced.

I find myself longing for that pause in my busy schedule to slow down. I enjoy the different rhythm that Advent brings. The liturgy, the prayers, the lighting of the wreath — all in anticipation and hope. These things teach me to slow down and wait.

I find myself each year caught off guard by Advent. I know where it falls in the calendar and the preparations that it takes to get there, but I am still not prepared for how it transforms my anxious soul. It takes a few days for my body to release the tension, to relax into the waiting pattern, to rest in the comfort of the liturgy. And when I do, I am reminded of the importance of this season.

While most people want to rush straight to the bright lights and festivities of Christmas, I want to stand in the waiting, wonder and hope that is to come. I will join in the festivities of campus, I will go to holiday parties, I will take the annual family Christmas card photos. All of this and more will happen, but I will do it all alongside the expectant waiting of the season.

I will hold onto the liturgies, I will sing the hymns, I will light the candles, and I will be reminded of the change of pace this season can bring—the recentering it provides my soul if I let it. I will live into the deep sense of hope that comes with these days. And I will try to bring that change of pace with me into the new year knowing there is grace for when I fall short.