There is just something about drinking a Chai Tea Latte that makes my insides feel like that of a giddy school girl. I remember the first time I tried something Chai-flavored. I hated it. I thought it tasted awful. But, obviously, that was when I was young and naive and had not known what happiness tasted like. (Because, obviously, happiness tastes like a Chai Tea Latte. Duh. And when it is made with soy milk, I might as well be floating on a happy cloud.*)
Which brings me to yesterday morning. I skipped chapel (not because I’m a heathen, but because… hey, I don’t really need to offer you an excuse. I have all my chapel points, get off my back, yo) and still had over an hour before I needed to be at work, so I went to Starbucks to get a little reading in. And what did I order?
A Chai Tea Latte, of course. (That’s right. I’m predictable.) And it was wonderful. I sat next to some ladies who discussed the Muppets movie and then talked about their dysfunctional children. But it was still wonderful. I enjoy Starbucks and their wonderful Chai Tea Lattes of happiness.
Fast forward to this morning. I had a little bit of time after my TA meeting (I’m a Teacher’s Assistant for Public Speaking), so I hit up the campus coffee shop at the Library. And what did I order?
If you said Peppermint Mocha, you are right! No, just kidding, of course I got a Chai Tea Latte. However, here’s the thing: I love having a coffee shop on campus and in the library, but I cannot lie, their coffee drinks are not really that spectacular. Now, I’m not a coffee snob or anything, they are just really not that great. I mean, come on, let’s be real here people. They taste nothing like Starbucks.
So, you may be asking yourself, “Annie, what does this all have to do with Advent?” Well, I’m glad you asked. But, in order for you to understand, you may need to jump inside my head. Almost like the Magic School Bus.
Celebrating Christmas is a joyful season. There are lights and trees and ornaments and stockings and gingerbread men and the list could go on and on. And it’s really great to wake up early on a Christmas morning and open presents and eat Christmas hams or lasagna (or whatever your thing is). I love Christmas. The music is great. (Sometimes it is not so great.) Christmas is awesome, but when you celebrate Christmas without going through the Advent season, it is like drinking a Chai Tea Latte from the campus coffee shop compared to drinking a Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. There is really no comparison at all.
The Orthodox Church is currently on what is called the Nativity Fast. They are fasting from meat and dairy, fish and wine. Much like the Lenten fast before Easter, they are preparing themselves for Christmas. They do this in order to celebrate and enjoy the Nativity more fully. This is also why we need to recognize Advent for what it is—an intentional time of preparation for the days leading up to Christ’s birth. We need to prepare ourselves in order to celebrate and enjoy Christmas more fully.
If you have ever eaten an entire bag of marshmallows before dinner, you know what I’m talking about. Orthodox Christians are watching what they are eating. They are taking the time to shift the focus off of themselves and onto others. Advent is not just a season for passively waiting, but for watching, for actively anticipating Christ’s entrance into the world again. His second coming. We should think this Advent season to think of how we can shift the focus off of ourselves and ask God to reveal to us ways in which we can love other people, ways in which we can live out the mission of God on earth, bringing His kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.
*Okay, let’s all overlook the fact that I just described Chai Tea Lattes like someone on meth would describe their meth-y high. Or tobacco. Or whatever. Alright, let’s face it, I don’t know anything about drugs.