I always had the best intentions at the beginning of each semester of college and seminary. That semester would be the semester in which I followed the syllabus to the letter and read every single assigned reading for each class. I was going to read it all word for word, week by week. Those good intentions usually did not survive past the first quarter of the semester. Other classes and life just got in the way. I would still read the material, but it was in a haphazard manner rather than in the highly structured way laid out by the syllabus. I always had to deal with an initial bout of guilt, but came to realize that is just how things worked.
I didn't grow up knowing about Advent or Lent and so there is a part of me that wants to be particularly focused on those seasons when they roll around. I want to make up for lost time. As a result, I approach those spots on the church calendar with the same intentions that I approached each new semester. This Advent was going to be the year where I followed it to the letter. I was going to do an Advent devotional every day at the same time. I was going to regularly break away from the chaos of the season and reflect on the Incarnation. We got a fun little devotional/nativity for our boys that we were going to do in the nine days leading up to Christmas. It was going to be the most Advent-y holiday season ever.
Ah, but life and, likely for the very last time, classes got in the way. The spiritual intentionality, moments of reflection, and teaching opportunities with our boys have not materialized in the way I intended. It has been disjointed, messy, haphazard. And now, two days before Christmas, I feel this temptation to cram. I feel like I need to...well, I feel like I need to feel something very deep and profound and holy lest this whole season is for naught. Advent is supposed to be a time in which we prepare our hearts and minds for Christmas. I am not prepared.
Maybe not being prepared is appropriate. Don't get me wrong. I still believe that Advent should be a time of anticipation and making room in our hearts for what we celebrate during this time. The devotions and time for reflection are vitally important. But you can never completely prepare for something like God coming down to earth in the form of a newborn baby. Thinking that I can fully prepare for something like that is actually kind of arrogant.
So I am trying to resist the temptation to feel bad for my haphazard Advent. I am trying to stop putting pressure on myself to feel a certain way spiritually. I am simply attempting to be present, to be aware, to be intentional, and to be grateful. After all, this is a season of grace. God gives to us in spite of our preparedness and our worthiness. Cram sessions are not needed; just a receptive heart and spirit.