Week 1: Christmas Spirit vs Advent Spirit

We’ve heard of Christmas Spirit, but what about Advent Spirit?

by Ethan Kaste

What happened to Advent? It’s sad that time and the secular world has taken a toll on this particular season to the point where if you asked the average American citizen what Advent is, they would probably respond with saying either, “what?” or “is that when Walmart starts to put out their Christmas products the day after Halloween?” Although that is convenient for holiday shoppers, the Advent season is not just reduced to convenience for Christians, but to celebrate and to prepare. And that is exactly what Advent is, a preparation.

The word Advent comes from the Latin verb, “Advenire”, which means “to arrive”. Christmas is the celebration of an arrival, Advent is the preparation of that arrival. When a child is developing in the womb for 9 months, we have the opportunity to prepare for this little one’s arrival by taking in and enjoying each step; the heartbeat, the gender reveal, the first kick, the sight of the baby in an ultrasound image, etc. In these 9 months, our homes are being prepared as well as our hearts for this gift. Just like Christmas, the practical preparations, of course, need to be done before this little one comes. But if we worry about the practical preparations for the arrival, we can end up forgetting about the arrival itself. Eventually we need to take a break from “buying the gifts” and enter into the awe of that joyful arrival, by looking at that ultrasound, by touching the mother’s stomach. We need to allow ourselves to let time stop and enjoy being in awe of who is coming. We need to let ourselves enter into those moments that are so beautiful that you can’t help but keep silent because you don’t want anything to disrupt the reverence and awe of that moment. These moments are so awe-filled to us that we naturally want them to last forever. In these moments we do not want to say or do anything that would take away or limit the eternality of the moment with words, because no words can fully describe what is happening. We can only begin to describe what is happening by noticing how it affect us, i.e. how we are feeling. But does not describe how personal the moment is.

Our preparation for Christmas is exactly like this. We can describe the season of Advent within the context of a pregnancy because that’s what it is! We call it Advent because it is not “an advent”, but the Advent! It’s not just a birth of a child, but the Child. Imagine your own little one coming into the world (or perhaps a niece or nephew). When your heart is prepared well, joy is fulfilled as you get to see the face of what brought about these eternal moments. But at the moment of Jesus’ birth, time seems to do more than just stop for those present, more appropriately said, it seems to become fulfilled. Not only do we get to enjoy the fulfilling moment at His birth, but time as well enjoys the fulfillment. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, creation (which includes time) has been awaiting the coming of the Savior and, at His birth all creation is fulfilled, both in nature and in our hearts. This is why I say it is sad that we forget about Advent. If we don’t enjoy the preparation of the arrival by entering into these eternal moments, then we can forget about the arrival. If we forget about enjoying the pregnancy, then we forget about the beauty of the birth. Likewise, if we forget about Advent, we forget about Christmas.

Ethan Kaste worked the summer of this year (2018) with the Office of Evangelization supporting the preparation of these Advent reflections.