When I was a kid, I always had an Advent calendar to count down the days from the first of December until Christmas Eve. I had the same tradition with my own kids. The secrets hidden behind each door were often Scripture verses. It was important to tell the story of Jesus’ birth and make sure my kids knew that was “the reason for the season”. There are other little treasures we could open each day, though. When my son was taking German in high school, they sold Advent calendars with chocolates in them. My father used to make us calendars out of magazine pictures and various old rotogravures with fortune cookie strips for the daily message. We made our own calendars for each other, too, with simple crayon symbols behind the cut out doors. The season has multiple images in my mind, and now I’m trying to figure out what it means to me at this point in my life.
I will always have respect for Jesus and the Christian story. They were supremely important in my life for many years. My spirituality was formed around them. I think it is good to examine and re-examine beliefs, though, and strive for genuine and authentic expressions of experience. My experience is expanding as I age, and I want to include more of those experiences in my belief system. I want to include respect for other cultures, other religions, other parts of the planet and the universe. I have a sister who is Sikh, a son who identifies with Buddhism and Native American spirit stories and a father who once taught science. There is a lot going on all over the world in this season. What do I want to acknowledge or celebrate?
My youngest daughter has always loved this season. She used to go to the local Hallmark store in the middle of the summer to look at the Christmas village set up there. What was that about? Sparkly, pretty, cozy, homey, yummy expectations of treats? Possibly. Peace, love, joy? Possibly. Emotions? Definitely. Why not focus on pleasurable human senses and emotions? Up in the northern hemisphere, we are spinning away from the sun and plunging into a cold, dark time. Light becomes more precious, warmth becomes holy, food is life itself. Why not celebrate that dependence? We are sustained by the sun and the producers of this planet that make food from its energy. Evergreen trees remind us of that. Gifts remind us that we receive from the producers; we are consumers. Gratitude is the attitude of the season. Giving is the action that sustains us.
I sent a text message to each of my kids this morning saying that the gift for Day #1 this season is sunshine. The sun is shining here, showering us with Vitamin D and all kinds of other goodies we need to be healthy and happy. We are blessed, saved, sustained, given life in this universe by an amazing set of circumstances that we did not originate. However you acknowledge that and whoever taught you to acknowledge that deserves attention. May you be happy as you think and act in awareness of this.