Advent and the Christmas season can be a stressful time for singles. Visions of happy couples strolling hand in hand dance in their heads. Sometimes it can be hard to prepare joyfully for Christ’s birth when nearly every activity, invitation, and Christmas song reminds you that you are alone.
Pope Benedict (when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) wrote a beautiful meditation on the meaning of Advent for those who are sick or suffering, but it resonates beautifully for anyone, whether single or in a relationship. The Pope points out that it is precisely in moments of suffering that we come to understand more profoundly God’s love and mercy and in particular the significance of God coming to us as a tiny babe.
The Pope says that there are three key elements of Advent: visitation (or presence); waiting; and joy.
Visitation. We need to see Advent as a visit from the Lord. Expecting visitors can be stressful, though joyful, and a visitation of illness is often seen as the antithesis of something joyful. Yet the Pope reminds us that you can find the joy when you see it as a visit from the Lord.
He suggests that we keep a mental diary during Advent, considering each moment in the day as a small gift, taking note of all the good things, the times during each and every day that the Lord visits us—every small joy. Another way to do this is to keep an actual diary, a “gratitude journal,” recounting moments when we experienced a visit from the Lord.
Advent is a time of waiting. Singles often find themselves waiting. Waiting to meet “the one.” Waiting to be in a relationship. Waiting to be done waiting. Yet we can learn from children, for whom waiting is really the best part. They wait in joyful wonder and anticipation for Christmas Day.
Pope Benedict reminds us that, for the Christian, each moment in time is significant, meaningful. Especially for those who suffer, there is no meaningless moment. Each moment is filled with God’s presence and His hope. He is already here, in a hidden way, in a way that points to a future joy. During Advent, we can seek the hidden blessing in each moment.
Advent is a time of joy. Pope Benedict tells us that our beautiful Advent customs are a form of prayer, rooted in Scripture. For example, “Then shall all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord, for he comes” (Psalm 96). He points out particularly the Christmas tree, Christmas baking, and gift giving as ways to share our joy. When we share these customs with our friends and family, we are doing our part to bring Christ to others. Singles can immerse themselves in the many beautiful Advent customs, perhaps baking for neighbors and friends, bringing gifts to the needy or visiting those who are truly alone—those in nursing homes, prisons, or hospitals during the Christmas season. Most importantly, it is a time, as Pope Benedict writes, to “let the signs of God’s presence penetrate our souls.”