When I was a little girl, Advent was a solemn time. A time to anticipate and remember. A time of contemplation and of prayer. What better time to turn inward and learn the value of delayed gratification, than the dark days of winter? Advent was like another Lent, except the ending was the birth of a baby in a manger, not the pain and suffering of death. Christmas and Advent was a time of hope and longing and waiting. And Santa Claus.
We all had to fast and abstain during Advent, same as Lent, except no giving up stuff on top of the fasting and abstaining. Mom said the fasting was just a reminder of how people waited for the Savior.
Nobody could get married in the Church during Advent. ‘Course, people could get married, if they just had to, but not with all the fun stuff; just a quiet wedding in the rectory, without all the singing and no big party, ’cause Advent was a time to focus on Jesus being born in a stable, and wise men coming from far away,
following a star hither and yon, searching all over tarnation for a new king and somehow trusting they would find him.
Church was sorta sad during Advent. No gloria for one thing, and no High Masses, so no filling the whole place up with singing from here to Timbuktu. I had a whole lot less time to think of other things besides God and His son, and Mary and Joseph. Plus, a whole lot less time until half-time, when Father read all stories about Jesus being born, and angels telling the shepherds to high-tail it out of there and go find the Prince of Peace who was shivering in the cold.
I bet Jesus appreciated some wool from those shepherds way more than myrrh from the wise men. Babies don’t even know what myrrh is, but they do know what cold is. Every time I saw a baby Jesus in a manger with just a tinsy receiving blanket draped across his middle and his arms
reaching up to everybody, I thought, For the love of Mike, cover that baby up, it’s freezing in a stable. Any girl who had to do chores in December knows that. For Pete’s sake, already. I guessed, at least one kid, Jesus, could say ‘yes,’ when his dad said, “Close the door. What’s the matter with you, were you born in a barn?”
Jesus had a lot of advantages. Like angels waking his dad up in the middle of the night to tell him what to do. Most dads would move their family anywhere, even Egypt, if an angel said so. Sometimes I wished an angel would wake my dad up.
I bet myrrh from a Wise Man was a gift that Mary and Joseph appreciated. That’s the way it was with lots of Christmas gifts I got. New underwear and socks and mittens are more for moms and dads than for kids. Maybe Mom wrote letters to Santa, too, ’cause I never in my life asked for new underwear. I did write out a long list every year: Presto Paints, a new case for my flute, a BB gun, a Thing bank. You know, Thing, the hand from The Adam’s Family.<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/O5FJBcBGZ9w?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>
I never got Thing, but most of the other stuff I got eventually. Sometimes I had to wait ’til the next year. Santa probably wanted to make sure I really, really wanted a BB gun. Plus, there’s only so much room in a sleigh. Waiting is the best part of Christmas. Waiting and hoping and wishing. That, and finding a gift I never thought about asking for and loving it to pieces. Like the tiny printing press I received one Christmas. No one in the world had something like that.
People like to point out how all the commercialism has taken the focus away from the real meaning of Christmas. I for one, long for the days when I had more time for contemplation, and Christmas seemed a long time away.
Children know. The real reason for Christmas is hope in the coldest, darkest part of the year. The real reason is shivering in anticipation. Getting a gift longed for or one that is unexpected; receiving something we need, rather than something we asked for.
Something anticipated. Something needed. Something to warm the darkest part of the year. What better time to fill the heart with light, and joy, and giving? What better time to celebrate love? What better time to believe the wait is over? Besides, even Santa never got as extravagant as the Three Wise Men.