The Christmas season is, we all know, harried. In our rush to please, our hurry to purchase, many of us will make quick decisions. Like me! Friend me! Poke me! But the Advent season is a time of waiting, expectation, hope.
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Like the Parson's Patch on Facebook. Facebook sent this to me. Then it gave me two options: Like Page or View Page.

"Like or dislike" I would have understood.

"View or ignore," too.

But "like or view?" I cocked my head, furrowed my brow, and puzzled. Is this what my life -- your life, as well -- has come to? Liking something without viewing it?

The Christmas season is, we all know, harried -- increasingly so as Christmas approaches. In our rush to please, our hurry to purchase, many of us will make quick decisions. Like me! Friend me! Poke me!

But the Advent season, which covers the same span of time as the Christmas shopping season, the same frenzied days leading up to Dec. 25, is a time of waiting, expectation, hope. Reflect. Expect. Imagine.

The same days leading up to Christmas. Two different purposes. The Christmas shopping season screams "like me!" and "buy me!" The Advent season whispers, "view me."

It's no accident that the stories at the start of two New Testament Gospels -- Advent stories -- begin with pregnancy: the long months of formation, of expansion, of expectation. Craggy old Elizabeth, destined to wait for her son John. A fresh-faced young Mary, destined to wait for her son Jesus.

In the early '90s, my wife and I lived in a third-floor flat in Chicago. When she became pregnant -- not for the first time, but for the first viable time -- we settled in and waited. We cleaned out the back room of the apartment, furnished it with a crib Priscilla's father had made by hand, tacked a rocking horse quilt on the wall, and set a rocker in the corner with a lamp next to it. Nothing lavish -- but signs of expectation, of hope. We left the light on every night for the baby. On one of the last nights, I sat in the enclosed back porch, looking out over the remote lights of Chicago high-rises, listening to the sirens on distant streets, and wrote a long letter to my parents that defined and described the pleasure of waiting, the stillness, the emptiness of the baby's room that soon, we hoped, would be full of screaming and wailing and cooing.

Which it was.

The Christmas season is in full swing. I'll make a trip to the mall, I'm sure. Priscilla, the kids, and I'll certainly make a pilgrimage to downtown Seattle to see the lights and the department store windows. I grew up in New York, so I like the hustle and bustle, the shoving and pushing, the intense energy of the Christmas season.

And Advent begins this Sunday, Dec. 2. I'll take some time to sit, to expect, to hope. We aren't given, like Elizabeth or Mary, nine months to wait. But we are given 23 days. That should be enough to settle us down, to calm our nerves (can you believe that?) and to imagine.

Take some time, whatever you call it -- Christmas or Advent -- to wait. Everything, every store, every television show will scream "Like!" Don't accept that invitation. Don't push that button. Push the other one, which says, "View!" It takes a little more time. But who can't spare a few moments to catch her breath, even to dream a little?

Merry Advent.

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