Guest post by Andrea King Collier
My first introduction to Advent was the little calendars we got at Holy Angels Cathedral School in Gary, Indiana. I am sure the nuns gave us some deep explanation about the significance of what it meant, but for us it pretty much meant the advent of Christmas break, and the countdown to Santa Claus. Nearly 50 years later, as I am pretty much burned out on Turkey Thursday, Black Friday, Small Biz Saturday and Cyber Sunday, I circle back to something more than the holiday hustle.
Advent in Latin means to come to, as in to come to Christ. I think that for me, if I am going to come to Christ, I should be doing it every day. Any day. The idea of a blueprint of getting my spirit on is a little binding. But as I come out of my Thanksgiving stupor, the notion of coming to is pretty true. Not very spiritual but true. And it is a symbol, this year of being able to slow down and savor love, kindness and hope.
In the past decade or so I sort of hated the holidays. There has been so much self-inflicted pressure to get the big pay off of the perfect Martha Stewart Christmas. I can never live up to it, must less “come to.” And then there is the overwhelming feeling of loss that comes with the days before Christmas, the reminder of all the people that I shared this time with who have passed on. Mother, Father, Grandparents. It is the occupational hazard of living through 55 Christmases, I suppose. This time, the days before Christmas make me feel like a high end Dickens orphan. By the time Advent is over my perfect Christmas boils down to taking all the obligatory trappings of the holiday down as quickly as possible. By the time I get to the day after Christmas, my birthday, the house looks like it’s just another winter day. It is the fresh start, the shaking off of all my imperfections and deficits. And I start anew by forgiving myself for all of it.
I am not the Grinch, I promise. I am the perfect storm of a person who sees so much of her life through the lens of December. There is the maddening bombarding of music, presents, cards, parties. And then there is the balance I need to give to it in introspection and earnest prayer. I try to take this time to look at who I have become and who I want to be. Do I take up or give energy? Do I live in joy? Do I curse too much? (Answer is always yes.) How often did I throw the zinger or take the cheap shot? Did I tear someone down or build them up? And when I take the ornaments down, and vacuum up all the dried out needles from the tree, how will I live and do better next year?
I was raised Christian, but a do no harm, take you as you are kind of Christian. I am a quiet spiritual person. I don’t care what your religion is, as long as you are not hateful, mean-spirited or sanctimonious (not asking for much). I weep at certain Christmas carols—each and every time. I love a terrible school Christmas pageant if there is a baby Jesus and an angel. And I get absolutely inconsolable at a Charlie Brown Christmas. When I go through a bookstore and see an Advent Calendar I smile, thinking about getting to “come to.”
Andrea King Collier is a multimedia journalist and author of Still With Me… A Daughter’s Journey of Love and Loss. Twitter:@andreacollier Facebook: andrea.collier