Advent is my favorite time of year, bar none. Christmas is awesome, but I admit that I’m one of those people who likes waiting for gifts and wrapping them more than getting them. It’s the same thrill-chasing mania that makes me drool over roller coasters or hang over the edge of a cliff in Capri with 300 feet and a tree between me and the ground.
It’s okay, you don’t need to tell me I’m a badass. We all know this already.
This same thrill runs through the season of Advent like Mithril through Erebor (sorry, The Hobbit is coming out soon, and all my suppressed 5th grade Tolkien energy is boiling to the surface). As Christmas attests to, all good things have small beginnings, and the shining light of the Nativity begins as thin veins of premonition in Advent.
Speaking of The Hobbit, the spirit of Advent is a little like a scene from The Return of the King.
The scene is very dark, but so is Advent. Listen to “Veni Emmanuel.” It is dark, yet beautiful.
The darkness of Advent is peculiar. It’s not like the dry desertedness of Lent; it’s more like Lucenarium or deep sea diving or shadow plays or a thunderstorm or.
The reason the above scene is like Advent is because it is all about waiting for a battle. Here is the scene [with some edits of my own].
PIPPIN It's so quiet. GANDALF watches the young HOBBIT. [Silent Night plays in the background]. GANDALF It's the deep breath before the plunge. PIPPIN I don't [not] want to be in a battle [for the Salvation of the world]. . . but waiting on the edge of one I can't escape is even worse [in how exciting it is]. (tense) Is there any hope, Gandalf - for Frodo and Sam [and the rest of humanity]? GANDALF joins PIPPIN as they look towards the distant, jagged MOUNTAINS of MORDOR . . . GANDALF There never was much hope [that the Messiah would come]. PIPPIN looks up at him, unnerved. GANDALF gives him a small self-deprecating smile . . . GANDALF (cont'd) Just a fool's hope.
Since we know the ending of The Lord of the Rings, we know the hope is realized. So it’s not that Gandalf is wrong when he says “Just a fool’s hope,” but that the awesome thing about God is he even cares about our foolish hopes, and then fulfills them. Pretty neat, right!?
I like thinking of Advent as a “deep breath” before the “battle” because I think it is exactly that. What is the Nativity but the D-Day of heaven, when the Once and Future King was smuggled behind enemy lines and disguised as a peasant so he could one day take back his kingdom? It’s a total underdog story, but all underdog stories need a rousing speech before the battle. Advent is the rousing speech.