Anxiety is the enemy of Advent.
That’s a hard statement to make and to take. The Advent season so often feels like a mad dash to Christmas riddled with fears that we won’t have the time to get it all done – the shopping, the decorating, the baking, the Christmas cards, the holiday parties, the family plans. Amidst our sense of time-scarcity, we bounce between regret and fear, looking backward at what we’ve missed or ahead to what we’ll possibly not get done in time.
What Advent anxiety means is that we’re unable to live in the present. And when we can’t live in the present, we cannot tune into the sacred moment offered to us. You see, Advent invites us to connect to the deep longing that runs beneath it all, the groaning for redemption and restoration from our suffering, from our anxiety. Advent – the antidote to our anxiety – is lost to us when we cannot become present to our soul’s native rhythm. Anxiety keeps us at the surface, messing with trivialities with a kind of addictive fervor, disconnected from our soul’s homing instinct.
Look at what you’re busying yourself with these days. Pay attention to how you’re feeling. How is Advent going for you? Does this season feel like an exhausting, anxiety-riddled rush to Christmas? Are your rhythms marked by point-click-purchase?
I don’t know anyone who really does Advent ‘well’. Do you? Who of us escapes the anxious rush to Christmas Day? There is no need to beat yourself up. Moments like these aren’t best spent wallowing in guilt but awakening, once again, to the present. The gift of a moment – this moment – is an awakening to what your heart most deeply longs for. It open us up to the whisper of the Spirit within – Do not fear…I am always with you. With a few deep breaths and a long pause, we can fairly quickly tune back in. We can once again find ourselves longing – longing for freedom from the dominating rhythms of consumerism and perfectionism and people-pleasing. Perhaps, for a moment we can transcend the self-consumed anxiety pattern and connect to the world’s deep longing – for peace, for hope, for lasting joy.
Anxiety is the enemy of Advent. But right now, in this moment, you and I can pause, breathe, and tune in to the Spirit’s presence again. We go away. God doesn’t. The Spirit is awake, alert, groaning and longing for the all-things-new promise even when you aren’t. You need only pay attention and tune in.
And so…take heart…
…with a pause and a deep breath, you might even experience (albeit for a brief moment) Advent’s gift to you, a gift you can’t buy or wrap, but One discovered as we watch and wait.