Once, in my home, there was a disagreement about when to begin listening to Christmas music. The Christmas Enthusiast wanted to start playing carols the day after Thanksgiving. The Liturgical Purist scoffed that it wasn’t Christmas for another month, and it should be time for Advent music. Skeptical, the Christmas Enthusiast asked for a list of Advent songs. The Liturgical Purist returned that there was plenty of Advent music to fill the weeks until December 25.

The Christmas Enthusiast said, “Alexa, play Advent music.”

Alexa replied, “Okay, I’ll play a station you might like: Christmas Carols.”

Not to be so easily defeated, the Liturgical Purist created a playlist of seasonally appropriate tunes and named it “Advent Music” for the next time the subject arose. I’ll leave it to you to imagine the look on the face of the Christmas Enthusiast when the next smug request for Alexa to play Advent music resulted in a two-hour playlist starting with “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.”

Funny, I’ll admit, and more revealing about the personalities of the adults in my home than anything else, perhaps, but the story above invites us to ask the same question that our midweek services, blue paraments, and countdown calendars ask: why Advent?

Advent is a real gift, if you ask me.

In Advent, we get the invitation to slow down. Instead of rushing headlong into Christmas, we wait and reflect on what it means for Jesus Christ to come to us. In Advent, we are called to a deliberate kind of faithfulness that asks a little more of our time. Those midweek services– how often would you otherwise spend half an hour in prayer and worship on a Wednesday night? In Advent, we are challenged to see through the eyes of our ancestors in faith who longed for the Messiah, and to put ourselves in the shoes of those who still long for God’s good news to burst into their lives. In Advent, we are reminded to keep an eye out for the Jesus who continues to show up unexpectedly in our lives.

More than anything else, though, I love Advent because it feels honest about our real lives. Life doesn’t move from one joyous moment to another, hopping from mountaintop to mountaintop. We don't have to glide cheerfully from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Advent lets us admit that we, too, have longed for God to show up in our lives. Advent offers us space to name the brokenness of the world and pray for God to repair it. Advent even gives permission to say that what we most need right now is a warm bowl of soup and good company to share it with.

However you mark Advent this year, I pray that you find yourself able to slow down, to pray, to empathize, to watch for Jesus, and to bring your full self to this season.