I’ve been tempted to cancel Lent before, but never Advent. I’m a true Advent-lover. At church we sing Advent hymns—no Christmas carols until Christmas Eve. At home we do Advent candles and a calendar. My children have been known to put away the baby Jesuses from our nativity sets until Christmas Eve.
This year, though, there’s a part of me that wants to skip the waiting and the contemplation and the somber reflection. To skip the apocalyptic texts and the wild prophets in the wilderness. There’s a part of me that just wants to do full-on Christmas now.
I keep thinking of the song “We Need a Little Christmas.” It’s a snappy tune, but I’ve always found it to be kind of a sad song: “For I’ve grown a little leaner, grown a little colder, grown a little sadder, grown a little older.” We need a little Christmas when real life is difficult. We need a little Christmas when the real world is bleak. So, yes, maybe we do need a little Christmas now.
But we also need a little Advent. A little time to light candles of hope, peace, joy, and love against the news of despair, violence, misery, and hatred that bombards us.
There is nothing wrong with the glittering lights, the cheerful music, the superficial happiness that has come to identify the cultural season of Christmas. Being happy—even for a brief time—is good. But it will not sustain us.
Flickering Advent candle flames might not be as spectacular as blinking Christmas lights; the mournful strains of “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” may not be as cheery as Bruce Springsteen’s rendition of “Santa Clause is Coming to Town.”
Advent is not spectacular. It is not cheery. It is merely holy.
I would venture to say that while we may want a little Christmas, we need a little Advent.