I remember when I was a child and my parents would pack us kids in the Impala and head out on a trip. It wouldn't be very long before one of us would ask, "How much farther?" or "Are we there, yet?" My parents got very creative about keeping us entertained, especially since some of those trips were from Iowa to California to visit my grandma. We'd sing songs and play the "alphabet" game which always lasted longer than you think because it was always hard to find "Q" and "Z" on billboards we passed, unless we were in the Ozarks with many Antique shops. Yes, my parents were masterful at finding ways to keep us "occupied" or maybe "distracted" so we wouldn't be so aware of the long road ahead. And, of course, I've done the same with my children.
As Christians, however, there is a sense that goes all the way back, that we need seasons of waiting and anticipation and reflection in order to go deeper in our faith journey and in order to connect to the Source of our life. Surface encounters, while nice for the short-term, are not enough to keep us going. Occupying ourselves with "things to do" is okay sometimes, but will not build up our strength as Christians. Distractions may be necessary at times and even inevitable, but not as a way of life. And so the Christian tradition developed seasons of the Christian year to encourage and nudge us to be still and quiet and go deeper and sit with our questions and our doubts and our desire for that which has not yet come in order to develop our strength of character and faith.
Advent is a season of waiting and anticipating and being aware of the darkness in which we know the light will shine. It is easy in this day and age to allow ourselves to be pre-"occupied" with all the preparations - decorating and cooking and gifts - or to be "distracted" by the lights and glitter and parties and sales. But the focus of Advent was meant to be waiting, watching, hoping, praying, going deeper that Christ might find room at the inn of our hearts and lives.
So, what can we do in this season to allow ourselves to be present to the journey we are on and not just occupied, passing time and distracted until we can shout "Christ is born!"? What can we do to sit and be aware of our deepest thoughts and desires for our lives and for the world? What can we do to become more aware of the dark places of our souls that need the light of Christ to shine?
Those are the questions of Advent. May we be aware of the journey and use this time to connect to the "one in whom we live and move and have our being."