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The aspect of Advent and Christmas that has always impressed me most is the way we celebrate it just when winter is starting to hit us hard. When the days are short, and it can be busy, but gloomy, I feel like hibernating. But that is when my thoughts are turned to the great giving and sharing of God with us. And when hope that was tied to the freedom of the summer has fully left me, that is when a new hope is born inside me that turns me to look forward to the new year. And while the commercialism of Christmas betrays the humility at the core of what we remember, the carols that we sing do the opposite:  they express the worship and fellowship that releases hope and optimism inside me. It also kindles my gratitude when I can connect with my family, and remember how important they are to me, and how precious God’s sustaining care has been. Yet, these traditions by themselves would be empty, if it were not for the impetus that God’s Son-giving for us imparts to it all. Advent is my opportunity to pause my “taking-for-granted-ness.” Because of the Advent of God coming into our world to bear our flesh, mine included, incredibly, I can participate in thankfulness and hope that I would not otherwise know.