We recognize that not all Christian denominations observe Advent, but we want to offer a piece to help us to prepare our hearts for the birth of Christ. Even if you don't observe Advent, we think this piece is helpful and will aid in spiritual preparation for Christmas. -TLC Team
Advent is intensely feminine.
Two years ago I encountered a book written by a woman named Caryll Houselander titled The Reed of God. The book is a series of meditations on the life of Mary, and I consider it something of a manifesto of the Christian woman; no other book that I have read so honestly and elegantly expresses the very depths of a feminine heart in love with God—both that of Christ’s mother and that of the author herself.
Houselander’s chapter on Advent has convicted me, once and for all, that this season is intensely feminine. “Advent,” she writes, “is the season of the secret, the secret of the growth of Christ, of Divine Love growing in silence.” She explains this time of preparation for Christ in terms of secret growth, not in the suspense of waiting for the door to fly open at Christmas. It is quiet, still, and even dark.
In [Mary] the Word of God chose to be silent for the season measured by God. She, too, was silent; in her the light of the world shone in darkness. Today, in many souls, Christ asks that He may grow secretly, that He may be the light shining in the darkness.
In case the analogy isn’t clear yet, Houselander is comparing Advent to pregnancy. Now, this may seem a rather obvious connection—Mary was pregnant with Jesus, duh. But wait. She’s not just talking about Mary. She is talking about me, and about you. Advent is a time when we bring Christ into the world anew. As we prepare for Christmas, in other words, we are preparing much more than a manger for the Child. We are preparing the Child Himself. In our waiting, we bring forth His life, His presence, His peace. The One whom we await is already within us, growing, increasing, and taking shape in our lives. We “give our humanity to be changed into Christ,” and Christ is formed in us and comes to dwell among men.
Christ did not barge in on anyone, not even Mary. He took a simple “yes” and then, silently, slowly, in secret, He began to grow.
“There are things,” writes Houselander, “that refuse to be violated by speed, that demand at least their proper time of growth.” We cannot hurry the Lord, or demand his coming on our schedule. In each of our lives are difficulties, sin, woundedness, hopes, and plans, and we think that if we don’t see change or progress in these areas, that it means God is not there with us. He is not working. He doesn’t care. What Houselander teaches us--what Advent teaches us--is that we have to trust that in times of darkness or uncertainty, Christ is present, albeit unseen, growing and preparing to bring new life.
God’s timing is so unlike ours; he is not as obsessed with seeing immediate results as we are. We are tempted to think it would be best if Jesus just showed up in a full-blown invasion of our lives. Yet, we don’t see that this is precisely how He invades: quietly, invisibly, as a helpless child.
What is essential during this time of Advent, then, is not to do more or work harder, but rather to create a space in our hearts for Christ to grow and to not disturb this growth.
In Lent, the path, though arduous and often painful, is clear: pray, fast, give alms. To be sure, the call to repentance and conversion is clear in Advent, too: “Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight His paths.” Yet, this season calls for a different sort of preparation; the taste of bitter herbs gives way to the aroma of balsam. As our days grow shorter and colder, and we are drawn to the warmth of candlelight in dark, austere churches. The cry of “rend your hearts!” stills, and a whisper is heard: “watch and pray.”
And as we watch, as we pray, Christ is conceived in our hearts. May we bear Him to the world this Christmas.