At the risk of really dating myself, let me tell you about an important pre-Christmas, Advent season, major annual event and ritual when I was growing up: the arrival in the mail of the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue. Weighing in at roughly 7 pounds, with five or six hundred glossy color pages, featuring thousands of things more than we could ever imagine or want, my sisters and I honed our reading skills by reading about the things we might want, and much of our research and library skills by learning to use the index to find Toys (its in the T-section, after S's and suits). Our math skills really surged whenever Dad said, "We're only spending this much on Christmas this year," and, well, you can guess how we approached our campaign to get this, that and more, within that price range. I guess you could say that the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue was, for us kids, our Bible, and the things pictured on the glossy pages, were our prayers and prophesies, while our Advent season disciplines were wishing, waiting…..and, or course, behaving.
But so many years later, I can't remember the half of what I asked for, nor of what I got. I was so sure at the time that the brightly colored toys and games on those glossy colored pages would make me eternally and uncontrollably happy. But now I don't even have anything anymore that would have come from a 1967 Sears and Roebuck catalogue. If they haven't turned to dust, they're in the depths of some landfill somewhere. Or in an antiques store somewhere getting sold for twenty times their original value. But when you're eight years old, you don't have the perspective on time and value that comes with later years.
Fast-forward by about thirty or forty years, and a middle age Advent Season pre-Christmas wish list may sound like this: 1) may I make it through the season with my bank account and my sanity intact; 2) may I not start sighing bitterly or say sarcastic things the next time I hear songs like "Happy Holidays!" over the sound system of major department stores; 3) may I get all the present shopping, card-writing, gift-wrapping and office party preparations done in time; 4) may I be gracious in the presence of my most difficult neighbors, work-mates and relatives.
Isn't there more to Advent than this? Isn't there more to existence than this? If the prayers and the prophets of Israel have anything to say about this, then our desires for life and the world are often too poor and paltry, not daring enough. For a look at the grand and gutsy things that our Christmas season Bible passages promise, check out the first message of the Advent season at Emmanuel Mennonite Church, at Download Advent1-08 .