I have a very distinct memory from when I was a little girl (okay, twelve years old…) of anxiously awaiting the Christmas morning tradition of opening up Christmas presents. I was so excited that instead of waiting for the parental mandated 6:15am wake up call, I did it my way. I changed the time on my alarm clock, woke up my whole family and demanded that we start Christmas a little early. This moment of impatience several years ago plays into a much larger reality about this world that we live in – we are so anxious to get to the final destination as quickly as possible that we forget that the journey is just as important as the destination.
That is what Advent is – the journey to Christmas. The word itself comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming.” In the midst of the craziness of the holiday season–peppermint mochas and Hallmark Christmas movies included—it is natural to feel like these weeks leading up to Christmas are all about the countdown, and not about the coming. Just as I was all too anxious and turned the clock forward to get my Christmas day started, it is easy to wish away these days of simple waiting and trade them in for the hustle and bustle of Christmas Day.
In an effort to more fully appreciate this journey to December 25th, it is necessary to find ways to live out this coming in our own lives. Practically, what does this mean? It means recognizing that the Advent journey requires silence, prayer and most importantly perseverance. Although everyone loves a good peppermint mocha, it is through these three things that we can ready the way for the coming of our Lord at Christmas.
Although seemingly impossible, finding silence among the chaos of these days can be done in simple ways–whether it is turning off that Josh Groban Christmas song that has been playing on repeat in the car or taking the chance to catch one’s breath between glasses of eggnog at a family Christmas party. Finding times for prayer can be as unassuming as waking up five minutes early to read that day’s Mass readings or saying a Hail Mary when we are stressed. Lastly, perseverance is not only a necessity of the Christian life, but a necessary part of a peace-filled Advent.
The most beautiful part of these days before Christmas is that the destination of our journey is not a rigged alarm, but God Himself in the unassuming form of a baby. This innocence of the baby Jesus reminds us that this season is a time for simple acts of faith, acts of faith that both allow us to appreciate the gift that is waiting for us and the journey that makes it possible.
Lauren Scharmer is a senior at The Catholic University of America and is active in retreat and youth ministry in both the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington.