photo by Charles Edward Case

Confession: all my Christmas decorations are up. Double confession: I didn’t even wait until the first Sunday in Advent. Maybe it was because my sons were home over Thanksgiving to help. Maybe it was my need to brighten up my digs post-surgery, or maybe it was just 2020. Period. I know it’s not supposed to be done, and I get why we’re supposed to wait. But no delayed gratification for me. Not this year.

Like some kind of crazed Auntie Mame, I pulled out everything I could. Up went the tree and the creche(s). The lights went wherever I could fling them with my one working arm. The only addition in synch with the season was the fabric Advent calendar my mother bought for my sons when they were young—although even there I noticed that Charlie had jumped ahead and velcroed the star in the pocket marked December 1st to the top of the manger before the date assigned.

I’ve never pushed the season so assertively before, but this year I’m glad I did. Seeing the lights and contemplating the angel ornaments on the tree has made me very happy. And it may be breaking some clergy-seasonal-alignment code, but in these weeks of Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation, I highly recommend embracing the simple aspects of life that inspire joy.

Maybe that means navigating through Advent unadorned and saving the celebrations for December 25th, or maybe it means adding symbols of Christmas as the final month of this calendar year evolves. Or maybe it means going all out all at once (and early!). Perhaps your Advent joy has nothing to do with outward and visible signs of the season, but instead involves a renewed commitment to prayer, or poetry, or connecting with a person you have missed. In any and all of it, remember that Advent is a season of preparation. We use this time to encourage our hearts toward a place where we can receive cosmic joy announced by real angels: God’s choice to be present with us and for us, always.