Just as I was working myself into a tizzy about preparing for Christmas, along came a beautiful reminder by my friend Perpetua of the real meaning of this season. With carols on the radio, Christmas sales already in the shops and urgings to instant gratification everywhere, it is hard to hold onto the idea that Advent is about waiting. Waiting. Looking forward to Christmas, not celebrating it before it has arrived.
Advent is, after all, at one level about the birth of a child. Every mother will remember that the last few weeks before the baby’s arrival are the hardest. You are fed up of waiting: you just want to get on with it, despite the challenges of the unknown ahead. But you can’t rush a baby, whether it’s the Christ Child or just an ordinary miracle. And thank goodness for that. Those last few weeks of waiting are precious, giving you time to make final practical preparations but also, perhaps, to have time to just sit and ponder the life-changing event to come.
And on still winter days, when the woods are so silent under snow that it feels as if the world has paused on its axis, these weeks of Advent do seem like a blessed pause before the celebration of Christmas can really begin.
Christmas creeps into our house gradually over the Advent season: see St. Nicholas’ Day.