We entered the season of Advent on the 28th of November, 2021. Many raced to put up their Christmas trees and shop for presents in line with Black Friday.
Meanwhile, at my house, we were still battling a wave of sickness. My family members’ co-workers had gone to work sick and infected us all at home. I began to feel the pressure of the holiday season, wondering if my inability to keep up with mere cooking, cleaning and getting us well, was a sign of failure.
But then, something happened. I started recalling Advents and Christmases past.
As a child, I relished decorating the Christmas tree because it signaled a time of year when caroling, Christmas services and sharing with loved ones, was imminent. It was a lovely time in my life.
All that changed when I was launched into an arranged marriage with a family who got the spirit of Christmas all wrong.
There was tremendous pressure to be showy and opulent. Advent was an exercise of putting in place symbols of excess. The family crammed decorations, in garish gold, into every space with a desperate need to make sure that these would outshine everything in their way. Excess, abundance and glitz hid an air of envy, contempt and opulence behind it. People gathered and gave presents but there was so much toxicity in the air, that I often wondered why they bothered.
After I left that toxic marriage I tried to re-define Christmas for myself.
My heart was broken and I needed to be lifted out of the brokenness. It was essential to the process of healing. I felt like an outcast from my old life and whatever semblance of social stature I once had.
There was this feeling that I didn’t even belong in my own skin. I was lost. I felt terribly imperfect and needed a new acceptance from somewhere.
Healing Christmas Music
Many things helped. I joined church choirs and in practicing the music for the Christmas services, I re-absorbed the lyrics of the hymns. It brought back to me, the reason for the season.
‘Silent Night’ is my favorite hymn. As the lyrics point out, calm, a sense of peace and of course, silence, are essential to the ushering in of this important figure of the Christian faith.
I learnt new hymns. The notes of the music and harmonizing of the choirs helped my spirit soar again. I felt the warmth and acceptance of the Reason for the season.
I also got re-educated on the facts. That Advent is actually separate from the Christmas season. The Christmas season is after the birth of Christ. Advent means ‘coming’ and therefore, Advent means preparation for Jesus’ coming. There are later, the 12 days of Christmas and the accompanying practices in the Church.
Advent in certain churches is ushered in by the lighting of four candles. The four candles represent four qualities. These are hope, love, joy and peace. Some churches have a fifth candle representing the actual arrival of Christ and Christmas.
Advent and Stuff
Ultimately, it is the intangibles that matter in the time of Advent. All the physical items are mere symbols.
So, even before we put up the physical Christmas tree, we are to seek hope, love, joy and peace in our lives and in the world. Ironically, it is often those who acknowledge that they are broken and weak, who seek these very things. I recently wrote about seeking peace in my own soul journey, https://wp.me/pc7lFV-1eV.
Therefore, a great gift was given to me when I was at my lowest point. I was reminded that there was something powerful to look forward to and it had nothing to do with the external embellishments of Christmas. One does not need money to experience the true blessings of Advent. Advent, after all, is a time to look forward to something greater to come, something that had no connection to glitzy boldness, decorations or showy displays. Advent requires at its core, surrender of self and ego.
So, if you, as I did many years ago, feel like you are left out and excluded in the rush of holiday shoppers and procurers, remember this. Advent is for you. It is for you to find in your troubles, hope, love, joy and peace.
This time of Advent, in fact, is especially for you, who feel excluded or broken. Embrace it.