As evening falls here in Shaker Heights, the last moments of Advent fade away with the daylight and the coming of the Light of Christmas begins. While I lounge lazily in my pajamas watching football all day, my mind wanders to these past four weeks of preparation and watchfulness. Sounds like a typical liturgical season for me: many promises, some reasonable, some unreasonably lofty, made in the days leading up to Advent; said promises held onto for a good week or two; the gradual relaxing and waning of such promises over the next week; the fall back to my same old habits and attitudes the week leading up to Christmas.
Naturally, my initial reaction to this reflection is one of frustration, or at least the temptation to be frustrated. I’ve been trying a little harder year by year to “take seriously” these seasons of preparation and penance, and every year I fall back to the same old undesirable habits and the same annoying attitudes. Why can’t I get it right this time? I’m 24 now (so old!) – I should be old enough to follow through on these commitments. If I can’t get things done right now, will I ever be able to? Such are the thoughts the evil spirit suggests that I make my own.
Thankfully, the Good Spirit helps me realize that I really have “aged” and “matured” the past few years since college graduation. (I like to think I have!) I have seen the great yet naive overzealousness of college underclassman, the same kind of healthy overzealousness I once had myself. I like to think that in the past few years, through various events of my life, the candle’s flame in my heart – one that once bounced back and forth, to and fro, and consequently didn’t get much of its work done – has begun to settle down and bit and focus on what it really needs to do. And I like to think that much of the reason for this is because I have been forced to rely much more on grace these past few years than I (seemed to) need to during my zealous undergraduate years. Now, as the wax of my candle has melted down a bit, I have around my flame some protection of the candle holder glass, grace, to make sure the wind of my pride doesn’t blow it out. I have realized more deeply how human I am, how weak and flawed I am. And more importantly, I have realized more deeply how wonderfully rich in mercy and care God is.
And so, although I have once again “failed” in my Advent resolutions, I still end up with the goal of what this Advent season is: hope. So long as one honesty pursues his resolutions, even though he fail, he cannot help but hope, knowing that the impending coming of the Lord this night is one of great mercy.