This may give you a sense why it is so much easier to ignore this particular season; or to pass over it lightly. If we think too hard about it it makes us focus on three things that we often, as 21st century Christians, don't want to deal with: 1) Jesus' resurrection; 2) the idea of a Coming Kingdom; and (where I want to focus today...don't worry, we'll get to the other two soon enough) the depth of our own need and longing for a Savior.
Two things I need to make really, really clear: the first is that by "Savior" I do not just mean someone who washes away my sins and snatches my soul to heaven when I die. While I do need my sins washed away (on a almost daily basis), and I do believe in the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come; when this is the singular focus of the Christian message, Jesus' message is corrupted and much we are called to do in His name is blunted and treated like an "add on," like sprinkles or other toppings on an ice cream cone.....available if we want them, but not essential. I, on the other hand, believe that the real "ice cream cone" of what it means to follow Jesus is contained in His teachings about justice for the marginalized, mercy for those who don't deserve it, and welcoming the stranger who is broken, alone,and dying.
That being said, it seems to me that the third thing in my list above is an essential ingredient if I'm to truly celebrate Advent; and that is the depth of my need and my longing. As a human being, my life is broken. The world around me is in shambles. There is nothing I can do to fix that. My best efforts are, finally, minimal band-aids to a bleeding open wound.
So Advent is a time of incredible longing. It is the time when we admit the deep needs of our lives and how desperately we need for God to “tear open the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1). It is the first time in the liturgical year when we admit to the great gulf that separates us from God and from what we were created to be.....and our absolute inability to do anything about it on our own.
Much of western culture wants nothing to do with that realization; not does it want us to have anything to do with it. If we had such a realization, it would upset the apple cart of all that our society has been built on. For example, the commercialism of the holidays teaches us to stifle that longing with ‘retail therapy.’ It wants us to believe that if we buy the right gift (or better yet, if the right gift is bought for us) that all will be well....we'll have a 'hallmark moment' Christmas and we won't have to deal with anything painful or difficult. So we swallow our longing, deny our need, and bravely steer toward the mall.
Advent is a Big Deal because here we claim all of that....not just for a couple of days between the eggnog and the fruitcake....but for four weeks while we voice the deepest cry of our hearts.