The True Spirit of Advent
As a child, I had no idea what the ritual symbolized. For me, it was just fun, not unlike many of today’s children for whom the opening of gifts on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning is just fun.
Every holiday, I would find myself the recipient of something of a cardboard poster or a little house or even a Christmas tree with little cardboard doors. And every day, I would open one of the little cardboard doors to reveal some worldly delight such as a photo or a toy or an ornament or a joke!
And even as a younger adult, I had no idea what the ritual symbolized. But it was no less delightful to find myself the recipient of something of a cardboard poster or a little house or even a Christmas tree with little cardboard doors, and every day to open one of the little cardboard doors to reveal a worldly delight such as a biscuit or a coin or a charm or one of about thirty hand-crafted artisan liquors. (Yes, artisan liquors.)
But as a grown man, I find myself less interested in pictures and ornaments, coins and charms and more interested in what the ritual symbolizes. It seems notable to me that both Easter and Christmas are preceded by periods, each about four weeks in duration - the period preceding Easter being known as Lent and the period preceding Christmas being known as Advent. Both arose in those centuries that followed what I imagine to be a clandestine gathering of men in some stone and dirt room, pouring over countless little scrollss (writings spanning some 1,000 years - writings of history and poetry and song and metaphor and mythology and symbolism and tribal preservation and food handling and flat-out social justice indictment - that they might at long last arrive at that final collection you now know to be your Judeo-Christian Bible.
In other words, Neither Lent nor Advent is a biblical construct. Both arose in the centuries of the early church.
Over the centuries since, the rituals of Advent have included forms of prayer, penance and fasting. It’s ironic, don’t you think that In the early days the season was acknowledged with fasting, not yule logs and frosted cookies, caramel puddings and fruit cakes, ginger breads and what’s that thing I discovered in the pacific northwest – Danish Kringles?
The rituals of Advent have included the lighting of candles. And of course, the rituals of Advent have included that elevated wreath upon which those candles would float, their light increasing and expanding with the coming of each Sunday morning.