Three men layered with decadent clothing drag their camels through desert winds and rough terrain until they finally come to a run-down stable with a father, mother, and their newborn baby boy lying among donkeys and sheep. The Three Magi have been traveling miles, faithfully following a star in hopes of finding a king. And upon finally reaching their destination, they present riches to the child who they have been longing to meet and in whom they have hoped to find salvation.
Whether this heralded story of the Three Wise Men travelling miles to unearth a prophesy is true or not, giving gifts has been an important part of the Christmas tradition over the course of its development. These storied wise men, fabricated though they probably are, give us a key insight into what Advent is all about. This tradition is rooted much deeper than the cornerstone of materialism that it has come to be vastly associated with today. Ultimately, the focus of the three kings’ gifts is not found in gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but rather in the journey of faith displayed in following a star. These men went chasing the night sky in hopes of something better for themselves and for all of humanity. Their journey was one of giving. They gave of their time, their possessions, and their deep-seeded belief in something greater than themselves. This selflessness is a key part of the Christmas tradition, and this willingness to give is rooted in faith and love that are felt most deeply at this time of year.
Through four weeks, we anticipate Christmas. We cannot wait for loving moments with family and friends, and we long for something deeper than the everyday glazed-over stresses in our lives. Each Advent, we put aside our busy schedules and breathe in the hopeful spirit of the Christmas season. At its core, Advent is a preparation for the celebration of human life that we often forget to appreciate. My education will make a difference in my life and in so many others. I am so lucky to be surrounded by people I care about, and who I can call my friends. I am so loved. These celebrations are found in little daily experiences, and that’s exactly what Advent calls us back to recognizing. After all, wasn’t the King of Kings found in a run-down stable? Didn’t the magi give everything to go on a faithful pilgrimage for one tiny, and yet magnificent, human life?
What, then, can we give during this Advent season? Every year, we seek out ways to show those we love how much we care about them through cards and gifts. We help those who are less fortunate by donating hats and scarves, by giving money to Santas at grocery stores, by preparing meals at soup kitchens. And still, even these good deeds and expressions of love can get lost in the hubbub of Christmas shopping, final exams, and so much more. So how can we stay rooted in the celebration of human life that is Christmas? How can we remind those we love that they are cared for and provide for those who struggle to make it day by day? How can we give more?
We have the power to celebrate the wonder that is human life every day through our words and in our actions. We have the ability to show other people that they are deserving of love through our smiles and in our kindness. What if giving more during the Advent season meant staying up late and helping a friend study, or talking a roommate through a difficult time in their life? What if giving more during Advent meant waiting a few extra seconds to hold a door for someone running through the rain, or telling a cafeteria worker how much you appreciate their hard work? What if giving more during Advent meant confronting the hard questions of racial or economic injustice that we face in those kitchens we serve at? What if it meant speaking and listening with those who believe they have no other real outlet to share their voice?
Advent is a wonderful reminder of what it means to be fully human. It allows us to hope for something deeper and reach for a rekindling of love in our lives, even amid the suffering and stress that confronts us every day. If we keep faith and we have love, we don’t have to walk miles through desert winds like the wise men to find the wonder of our humanity. It is alive within us, waiting to be tapped into and given out for others to receive.
Tim is a senior from St. Louis, MO majoring in Marketing and Theology. He loves Mumford and Sons, the Avert Brothers, and The Decemberists.