This year, the first Christmas party to which I was invited will be taking place on December 1st. I informed my husband, enraged. “There was a time when Christian meant anticipation! What happened to living in the already and the not-yet? What happened to the patience of hope?”
He thought I was being unfair. “It’s the culture, love,” he said in his best soothing voice. But I will not be soothed. I go off on how it used to be that Christmas day began the twelve days of festivities, that no parties occurred before Christmas because it was a season of anticipation. Now, if I want to anticipate, I need to begin around Halloween. No wonder the stores put out their stockings when Fall has barely begun.
He attempts to use reason, “It’s not a good reason to want to go back to a tradition just because it’s what we used to do.” Which is true, of course, but not my argument at all. “I’m going to decline on theological grounds.”
Israel knew how to wait. They waited, expectantly, for the New Jerusalem. Even with the knowledge that they may not live to see its coming, they lived in hopeful anticipation.
In advent, I remember that Mary knew about anticipation. I would think every mother does. From the realization of the first missed menstruation until the child is in arms, a mother lives in anticipation of that tiny breath. It’s not a passive waiting, she actively works towards it, feels her body change, increases her food intake. She prepares not only in her body, but also her home, child-proofing and readying. She prepares psychologically. At the birth of her child, she will become a mother, and spend the rest of her life learning to be what she already is, a mother.
So what does it mean to anticipate the birth of a boy who became the man who taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come”? I would suggest it means living in anticipation, active and excited anticipation, working towards new life and new creation with a patient hope. Perhaps advent teaches us to be patient for 30 days, so that we may be patient for another 30 days, 30 years, 30 generations as we actively work to bring the Kingdom into existence.
Or we could have a Christmas party to start off December. That sounds just as good, right?