Bill Hagen: Into Advent

Bill Hagen
The 2021 Christmas tree.

 “Good times are here. Good times to come.” So posted a former student. In love?  Graduating? On Facebook, you don’t always get details. A personal advent. 

     Advent: a sense of well-being, a sense of imminent fulfillment. For many, it may simply be the anticipation of holidays, of giving and receiving, of delight in shopping, musical programs, and seasonal movies—“It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Christmas Carol,” and, of course, “Home Alone.” 

     Such familiarity shouldn’t dull our double consciousness. We know that each year the Christmas infant will become the murdered adult on Good Friday, and the resurrected Christ on Easter. Birth is shadowed by the knowledge of departure and death. Children are born to us, we imagine possible futures, then they separate from us, shape their lives, and, unfortunately, sometimes die before we do. 

     It’s a common experience, this expectation and separation. We become aware that happiness and depression can unite during the Christmas season. Where family and fellowship are so featured in the media, the solitary are made twice lonely. The Waltons’ Christmas Eve “Good Nights,” echoing through the large house, awaken the yearning of every parent to have all the children  — as children — back in the fold once more. 

     Even children may be somewhat aware of the cycle of fulfillment, loss, and future expectation. The tree is up, brightly lit, shining ornaments, the needles start to fall, it is stripped and taken to the curb. Frosty, the Snowman, comes to life and dances through the town. Then he melts, promising to “be back again someday.” 

     Christians are somewhat unique in celebrating birth and hope in the dead of winter, right after the shortest day of the year. Pictures of a lone guiding star in the sky, a manger scene surrounded by darkness, a lighted house or church or tree glowing in the cold, snow-covered landscape—testaments to the spark of life in an unaccommodating world. Testimony hopefully to a hospitality not exclusive to inns. 

     Our welcome mat should be out for the estranged and strangers, who may give more to us than we know, themselves angels unaware. We should be driven to take the light out of the realm of pretty cards and films, out of our homes and our churches...and into the world. 

     To accommodate others, to draw solitary human beings into a fellowship that persists. In the brief time we are earthbound, we could do worse than follow the advice of a great humanist—“Only connect.” 

Bill Hagen

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at billha47@hotmail.com.