I had planned on attending a Christmas Eve service, but that didn’t pan out, and I’m struggling to write any kind of conclusive piece about Advent. But I will try.
Part of the reason I chose to observe Advent is my yearly struggle to like Christmas. When people ask if I’m ready for Christmas, they mean “Are all your presents purchased and shipped? Is your baking done? House decorated? Travel plans finalized?” Not one person means to ask if I am ready to observe and ponder the entire purpose of Christmas–Jesus.
The current state of celebrating Christmas is about gifts and togetherness. I find this somewhat ironic, as Jesus spent so very much of his life in solitude. Commercials that beckon us to buy gifts for family are rife with imagery of people together. I have not seen a commercial in which a person sits in his home, alone, opening gifts, even though that is reality for many people around the world. It’s probably truer to say that if someone is sitting in his home, alone, he has no gifts to open anyway.
That’s the case with me–and part of why I chose to not decorate this year. Gifts do not come to me. Two or three students leave me treasures on my desk, sure. As for gifts to open Christmas morning, though? I have none. They go to my parents.
Family members who bless me with Christmas gifts send them in the same box as they send gifts to my parents, probably to save a little on postage and because they know I will end up at my parents’ house at some point on Christmas Day. I don’t fault my family members for this; I’m not even sure it’s crossed their minds to deliver gifts directly to me. But, to be blunt, it sucks. No wonder I don’t like Christmas–it’s not a holiday I’m invited to celebrate in the same way as everyone else, all because I am single.
It doesn’t help that of all the Christian-based faiths, I’m pretty sure mine is the only one that does not have Christmas Eve services. I asked around as to why that is–no one seems to have a real answer for me. The cultural answer is “It’s a time to spend with families.” That’s a great answer if you have one…
So let me circle back to Advent and what I learned this season–Jesus lived His life on the fringes of society. He spent time with lepers and prostitutes and fishermen. Even his close friend, Peter, wasn’t reliable. We have no record of Jesus having a family of his own (though I do believe He did), so the stories we have are of him being alone. Sure, He encountered people in his life, but the records we have of His darkest times, He is alone.
As I listened to The Messiah this past month, reflected on different Advent scriptures and questions, I saw two themes emerge: what Christ did for me, and what I can do for Him. What He did–from His birth is the most meager of circumstances to His death among thieves–no one else could do. So I’ve spent time this month thinking, what in my life can I do that no one else can?
I don’t mean to place myself on the same level as Jesus, but instead, I mean to refocus my purpose. Are there students I’m ignoring that I can reach in a way that other teachers can’t? What can I do–that my siblings cannot–to make sure my family ties remain strong? But most important, how should I really be living my life to reflect my faith in God and Jesus?
I’m still not wild about Christmas. But I’m not going to abandon my Advent observation next year. It’s helped me stay focused on what all the hub-bub should be about this time of year.