For Christians, Christmas is more than a sweet remembrance of a birth in a manger. It is more than sentimentality and tradition. More than gifts and feasts. The Nativity is an apocalyptic event, a moment of Revelation, of Reality laid bare, a moment in which everything changes. Advent developed as a time to reflect on this and to prepare the soul and body for this Moment of Judgment. While I have not been able to call myself a Christian for a couple of years, Advent remains an important season for me. It retains this sense of preparation and anticipation beyond the practical concerns that accompany Christmas. It remains a time of preparation of soul and body through reflection and contemplation, and of anticipation for something new and unexpected: a way forward that I never could have guessed.
If life has taught me anything it is that change is inescapable and unpredictable. The things I trust and count on — even a faith to which I had dedicated all of my adult life — can come crashing down around me. Advent is for me about readying myself to meet these great and small moments of Judgment which I face every day with dignity, courage, peace of mind and hope. It is a reminder that there is Light even in the midst of the darkest days of Winter and the darkest night of the soul. It is about remembering what I have already learned, moving past what I have already overcome, and becoming who I already am. It is coming to terms with — but not being held down by — the past, and facing the future with hope, grace towards myself and others, and expectation.