In my first year at Canadian Mennonite University, my first year away from home, I kept a running countdown to the Christmas holidays on the whiteboard stuck to my dorm room door. Only 12 days until I fly home, 19 days until Christmas.
Each day I would update the number with red or green markers, and listen to the CD of Christmas music my sister mailed to me. By December I had been battered by papers, stressed by readings and just begun the slog through final exams. If anyone needs the hope and anticipation of Advent, it is students.
Advent then was a season of great anticipation; it started the gradual process of going home.
It’s true that I’m no longer in school, but still a young adult trying to figure out my future. December is still a time of year when I’m feeling most overwhelmed, and Advent calls me home both physically and spiritually. It is a ritual I find comforting and one that I’ve come to depend on.
I have lived away from my hometown in Fort Langley, B.C. for the last seven years, and every year my parents have flown me back to celebrate Christmas as a family. Once Advent begins I start looking forward to the traditional father-daughter Christmas tree chopping excursion, listening to the Roger Whittaker Christmas album and eating a Christmas meal as a family.
While my family traditions aren’t part of the Christian calendar, they are meaningful to me. In a 2009 blog post on Patheos.com (http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Advent-Intentional...), Emily McGaughy suggested that celebrations outside of church activities, like buying the perfect gift for a friend, are still a part of anticipating and celebrating the coming of Christ. My Advent traditions may not all take place in church, but they do help me prepare to celebrate Christmas.
Yes, there is also a spiritual side to my homecoming (don’t worry, I haven’t cast aside the church calendar in favour of Christmas cookies and carols). Each year Advent also calls me into a new and more intentional relationship with the church.
It’s not that I don’t attend the rest of the year, but as a young person without a car living in the fierce cold of Winnipeg or the metropolis of Toronto, the logistics have never been in my favour. And as the months go on I get busy, either with school, or now with work and the search for more of it.
The start of Advent, however, always wakes me up and reminds me to give my spiritual life some attention too. That is the beauty of any change in season, it forces you to notice the world around you. Like fall leaves or falling snow, Advent marks the beginning of a new season and reminds me that in my faith I have something great.
Advent calls me back to a refreshed relationship with the church. At the time of year when I am often the most weary, Advent reminds me that renewal is coming in the birth of Christ. It reminds me to wake up and come home.
Emily Loewen is Young Voices Co-Editor for Canadian Mennonite and a freelance writer and editor. She is a member of Langley Mennonite Fellowship in British Columbia.