Advent means “anticipation” in the best way

In church last Sunday, someone asked me the meaning of the word Advent.  It means the period before the coming or arrival of an important event.  Liturgically it is a time of preparation best summed up in the word “anticipation”.

What a delicious concept in this world of instant gratification.  Imagine having to wait for something.  Remember in the old days when we had to just wait for things (other than medical care, of course!)

Once when I was six or seven I found my presents in the middle of December.  Mom thought – wrongly – that I wasn’t a snoopy character.  For a few delicious secret moments I pawed through the bags hidden in the junk closet under the basement stairs expecting to be caught at any moment.  I got away with it, of course, but the real punishment was far worse.  Come Christmas morning there were no surprises under the tree, no excitement.  I knew what was in most of the packages even before tearing away the paper. What a letdown!  My searching had stolen away my own delicious anticipation.  

I’m not always great at keeping promises I make to myself, but not looking for presents has been one I have held onto faithfully.  You see, that year I realized that the best thing about Christmas gifts isn’t the price tag, or whether it was on my list.  No, it’s the anticipation.  Gifts should not be grabbed before their time.

Years ago one of my children had been to a craft fair the day before and apparently bought me a gift.  As I tried to watch the something on TV, she danced around my chair teasing me about her gift, asking me to guess.

“Guess, Daddy!”

“Honey, I don’t want to guess…I want to be surprised on Christmas Day.  I am sure it’s wonderful, but I want to dream about it a little bit first.”

“I know, but you can try to guess, because you’ll never guess in a MILLION YEARS!!!”

…and so it went for several minutes.

I am reminded of guided meditations.  Many of them use words to lead participants to places where they encounter a teacher of some kind.  They receive a gift or an answer, something they need and have kept hidden inside.  The thing is, the gift never comes until the receiver is prepared to receive it.  These kinds of spiritual journeys are their own kinds of Advent.

In the days ahead, may you find time to prepare for a holiday season that brings you what you most need, whether it comes in a pretty package or in some other unimagined way.

See you in church!