http://eyesonheaven.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/advent-wreath.jpgChristmas is such a juggernaut that Thanksgiving kind of got swallowed by it last month: Black Friday, decorations, and carols dominated our media, our airwaves, and our free brain space, leaving us hardly any room to indulge in turkey or practice gratitude.  In response, some have lamented, whether because of commitment to tradition, hatred of commercialism, or desire to get back to the real meaning behind Christmas.

In my denomination, there's another holiday in the mix that too often gets overshadowed by Christmas: Advent.  Not growing up in the church, I didn't have any category for Advent.  At least with Christmas, a little kid soon learns that the whole reason behind the gift-giving is that the baby Jesus was born way back when.  But Advent?  What's that?  The word did not inherently or immediately conjure anything to my young mind.

But in my denomination, Advent trumps Christmas, because the anticipation captured in the Christmas story about the first coming of Jesus is dwarfed by the anticipation captured in the Advent story about the second coming of Jesus.  As pure and delightful is the longing of the child for a tree lined with shiny gifts, so should are longing be for a far greater gift: eternal life for us, and eternal reign by a just and benevolent ruler.

An elderly woman in my congregation came up to me the Sunday before Advent to plead with me that we emphasize Advent in the weeks to come.  Here is a woman who feels she is on the doorstep of glory (I and others hope she has many more years of life left), and with that station comes a deep desire for the coming of Jesus.  I was humbled by this woman's fervency, and pleased the next Sunday when, after our pastor preached an entire sermon on Advent, she came up to me with a satisfied smile and said, "I thought of our conversation the week before" and I replied with the same.

Christmas is a pretty cool holiday.  And so is Advent.  Whether 5 or 85, may we be filled with wonder this time of the year, in our remembrance of a momentous birth and in our anticipation of an even more momentous return.

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