The Spirit of the Season

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to think in harmony with one another, in keeping with Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is the “spirit of Advent?”

We hear often of the “Spirit of Christmas” – a feeling of warmth and cheer, of “goodwill toward men,” of peace and fellowship. It’s what puts a smile on our face on December 25th. However, we have three weeks to go before that. Is there a spirit that goes along with this season of preparation? Can we recognize it?

The world certainly has a spirit. It’s a spirit of impatience, of busy-ness, of consumerism. It gives us the “25 days of Christmas” specials, the Hallmark Channel TV movies, the marshmallow peeps in red and green, the sales, the hustle, the bustle, the eggnog-fueled frenzies that stress everyone out. We even look forward to this and dare to sing “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

However, all of this – all of it – overlooks the very reason for the season. Why? Because we have lost the spirit – the Spirit of Advent. Gratification is the order of the day for our culture – and not just during the holidays. We want what we want, when we want it, exactly how we want it. “Now!” is the “magic word,” not “please.”

But the Church’s celebration – or observance is the better word – of Advent calls us away from that attitude and renews a spirit that we can lose throughout our year. Today, St. Paul speaks to us of “the God of endurance and encouragement.” This is a special reminder that the spirit of our season of Advent is one of expectation – “joyful expectation,” to be exact – and this has been a Biblical value for us for centuries.

During these weeks of Advent – and we actually get four full weeks this year – we are called back to a holy sense of expectation. The cause for our joy is Jesus, who is already present among us in mystery, who has already come in history, and whom we await in hope to arrive in glory. There is no rushing this arrival. No matter how near the kingdom of heaven may have been, John the Baptist couldn’t speed it along by any manner of wishing or effort. His expectation was full of the endurance that Paul speaks of, and he turned to others to share that spirit of encouragement with others.

Here, on this Second Sunday of Advent, let’s pause. Let’s assess the impatience of our lives and of the world around us. What do we want – really? What are we called to work toward? In reality, it has very little to do with jingle bells and brown paper packages tied up with strings. Rather, we anticipate the arrival of a kingdom of peace, of justice, of love – seen miraculously in the birth of a little baby boy.

There is wisdom in the Church’s observances. Each major feast that we celebrate – particularly Easter and in this case Christmas – are preceded by seasons of preparation. Why? Because pleasure delayed is pleasure intensified. It’s the joy of waiting – not as some silly rule or personal practice of torture. Rather, it is a recognition of the fact that “good things come to those who wait.” And, for those who wait in joyful expectation, the joy of the arrival is all the more powerful.

So, put a halt on receiving for now. That’s not the spirit of this season. Instead, focus on patience. Focus on endurance and encouragement of one another. Make this season of Advent a season of welcoming one another so as to be prepared to welcome Christ. Christmas will come and go: I guarantee it. And we will wonder where it went – unless we spend this time now, preparing in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

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