When I was growing up, my Advent calendars had little windows that you opened up each day and underneath were pictures of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus in the manger, with a verse from the Christmas story.
Then calendars with chocolates inside appeared. But now you get them with miniature whisky bottles, coffee capsules, make up, dog treats, and much more. Many calendars simply seem to be a way for brands to deliver 24 samples in the hope of you buying a full size version after Christmas.
The Advent calendar, as we know it, has been around since the 19th century and was designed to help people anticipate and reflect on the coming of Jesus and to prepare themselves by reminding them of the story behind the festival of Christmas.
Now they are simply seen as a countdown of the days to Christmas with the original intention forgotten.
As well as waiting for Christmas, Advent is the time of year when we think about the time when Jesus will return again and the world as we know will come to an end. There will be a “new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13)
Can we imagine a world with no earthquakes, sickness, pain or tears? But that is what we are asked to anticipate in Advent. That is why the first candle lit on the Advent wreath is the Candle of Hope. It is about expecting something entirely new.
So when you open another box or window on your Advent calendar let it remind you that you are waiting for someone who will usher in a new world, even if we find that hard to imagine.