Hey, are you ready for the ADVENT season?
Well, I am. I was just at Costco and I picked up:
- a Wine Advent calendar .. 24 half bottles of wine for my wife,
- and right next to it, I grabbed the Brewer’s Advent calendar with 24 cans of German craft beers, perfect for myself.
- Of course, I also had to pick up two, not 1 but 2, Toy Advent calendars as you know the little ones will never share,
- and then at the last minute, I decided to splurge and I picked up one more, an extra special one for my wife. It’s packed with 24 hand creams, body lotions, cleansing soaps, you know all that girly stuff, but hey, it’s all sustainably sourced and it comes in reusable packaging. She’s gonna love it and it should increase my gift receiving potential too.
Yeah, we’re set for ADVENT!
But did you ever wonder how the sales pitch aligns with the origins of Advent?
Well, first of all, you might ask, where did the word Advent come from? Would you be surprised to learn it’s from the Latin word “Adventus”? Yeah, I know, not so surprising, Latin. But what does the word actually mean? It means “Coming”.
Well that makes sense, I mean the coming of Christmas is exhausting. Why else would the wine and beer calendars be so popular? Most of you probably know that Advent signifies the coming of Christmas, or more accurately, a time of preparation for celebrating the birth (coming) of Jesus.
The tradition dates back to sometime around 450 AD when the Roman Catholic Church wanted to add a special emphasis on the need to prepare oneself for Jesus’ birth-celebration. And of course, the Church decided that there would be no better way to do this, than to declare that every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the 43 days leading up to Christmas would be Fasting days for everyone! Yes, all were to abstain from meat, butter, milk, and eggs.
Why fasting? St. Augustine, who lived in those same times, said, “Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, and scatters the clouds of concupiscence”. Wait, "Clouds of Concupiscence?" Oh, it means strong sexual desire; lust. Oh yeah, St. Augustine knew how to sell fasting!
Well, Church Followers obeyed the declaration, but as most often happens, culturally, the same followers almost immediately started looking for an easier way. It took a century, but by about 1450 the fasting requirement was officially reduced to being just for the religious class (priests, monks, etc.). And now, in modern times, there is simply no fasting requirement during Advent.
Advent does however remain a time of preparation. Yes, preparation for the coming Christmas, and more specifically for the coming birth of Jesus, but just as importantly, it’s a season of preparation for the time when our own time on this earth is complete and we come to face eternity. A most absolute truth is that none of us know when our time here will come to an end.
Shucks, if you trust public opinion polls, many think that speaking in public tilts the scales to your time ending in mid-speech! I suppose that’s possible (for non-Toastmasters) but that very thought underscores how we just don’t know when our last breath will come.
Advent gifts us a season to ponder and prepare, mind and soul, for what we know with certainty will absolutely happen… We each will die.
Some may receive the grace of knowing, via age or illness, that their time is near and thus they can mentally and spiritually prepare themselves for the worldly end that is coming, but most of us don’t have a clue as to “our” when. The question then, is how well will we be prepared when our time comes and we go to meet our maker?
Advent gives us a specific season to contemplate exactly how prepared we will be… not just for the Christmas season, or the birth of a babe, but for the coming end of our time here on earth and our entry into eternity. St. Paul once wrote, “it is the hour now to awake from sleep … the night is advanced, the day is at hand.” How prepared are we if in fact, our day is at hand today or tomorrow?
Hmmm, maybe I should return those commercial Advent calendars? Afterall, Costco does have a great return policy! And none of us in the family will be able to do much thinking and preparation if we’re buzzed on wine, beer, soaps, and new toys anyway.
Pope Francis said, “Advent increases our hope, a hope which does not disappoint.” It seems to me that hope can lead one to a state of preparedness far greater than 24 half bottles of wine, 24 craft beers, toys, or even soaps and lotions … sustainably sourced or not!
My wish for each of us, is that we might allow this season of Advent to fill us with exactly such hope. And may that hope encourage us to prepare fully now, for when it comes time for us to enter eternity.