Advent & Christmas

Advent Spirit

I’ve been unusually contemplative lately, if you can tell from my last few posts. I’ve been doing a sort of mental/spiritual cleanse. A lot of gunk has been building up, and I’ve slowly been picking it apart. We’re talking years of fears, heartache, and rejection. Trying to do good for myself and for others, and often not knowing the difference.

Advent has become a time of reflection for me. It’s not like Lent, which is more penance and abstinence. During Advent, we’re preparing for the coming of Christ. It’s like frantically cleaning the house before company arrives, down to scrubbing the bathroom grout with a toothbrush (as if they’d notice). Except the house is your life, and the company is literally God.

Similar to your home, it’s embarrassing to face how messy it’s gotten. During RCIA, life was going great. I had a direction, and a good one. But while I was okay in faith, everything else was a negligent mess. I was on-track with God, so I blindly jumped into various situation I thought were “right.” But they weren’t. I couldn’t tell that I was swimming in muck, because I’d dumped in glitter so it looked fine and sparkly. It wasn’t until I pulled myself out, and starting picking off the tar, that I realized what had happened. (Glittery muck is the weirdest mental image, but it’s the most accurate metaphor I’ve got.)

Then Advent rolled around. I was inundated with reminders of Christ’s coming and of Mary’s obedience. I was halted by every nativity scene I passed. I always understood why He came to Earth, but this time, it was personal. He came not as an obligation, but because He wanted to. Human beings have mucked up everything—and I’d certainly mucked up my own everything—and God came to clean up the mess. (Spiritual glitter, if you will.)

Earlier this week, I sat in a mostly-empty church for some midday quiet. I was feeling generally sorry for myself, fretting over all that muck. Nothing around me changed, and there was no audible voice, but a little nagging calm started to bloom. I could feel the Spirit whisper, It’s okay.

“But Jesus,” I silently whined, “don’t you know I—”

Shhh. Of course He knows.

I’d been writing a completely different post for this week, but it was starting to get me down. I’ve messed up a lot the past few years. I made some questionable career choices, and was too trusting with untrustworthy people. But I’ve dwelled on these mishaps enough. This Advent reflection isn’t for crying over the mess, but for cleaning it up. Get out that spiritual toothbrush and get the house ready. These weeks before Christmas—the time of Mary’s anticipation in pregnancy—is a kind of forgiveness. God knows I’ve messed up; He knows the details more than I do. But He’s coming anyway.

I just have to be patient. I’m patient enough with other people, but rarely with myself. Cleaning up takes time. I’ve hauled out a lot of mental gunk, but there’s still a ways to go. But Jesus is coming. Advent really is a new year, not just liturgically—it’s a rebirth. A chance for forgiveness. And maybe it’s finally time to tidy up the house.