The season of joy runs on two things: sugar and torture.

Growing up, my sisters and I built gingerbread houses and decorated them so thoroughly that the powdered sugar dust lingered in the curtains for weeks. We built palaces of icing and cookie sheets. But then the horrible reality set in almost immediately as we recalled The Great Law of Advent.

1 Candy = 1 Day

We could only eat our houses one…piece…at…a…time…one…day…at…a…time.

It was torture.

Family rules (like English common law) were developed over time to legislate our concerns.

New rules included:
1. Gingerbread houses must have structural integrity. Icing is glue, not its own wall.
2. No eating your sibling’s candy.
3. No licking other people’s candy.
4. You are not permitted to immediately devour walls that “cave in.” Too many walls had caved in for too many dubious reasons.

On glorious Christmas morning, we would gorge ourselves on stale gingerbread sheets. One year we built our houses in November–so early that we had to blow all the dust off the roofs of the houses. Then we ate it anyway, of course.

For most of my young life, I counted every day of Advent in gumdrops. Then I became an adult and I forgot how good it can feel to wait.

Advent is technically a time of waiting and preparation for the baby Jesus. The church waits in anxious expectation, repenting of distractions in order to focus on the miracle of a prophecy fulfilled. Advent and Lent share the same liturgical color: purple. Christians wait in the dark, just for a little while, because we know there is new life, resurrected life, at the end. We wait patiently in the purple time.

When you are in the season of terrible, time is heavily weighted. You experience waiting differently. Sometimes the waiting is torture, but oftentimes it isn’t. I feel attuned to every emotional and sensory facet of each kaleidoscopic day. I don’t want the Christmas rush. I want the Advent anticipation to go on forever.

A still, dark house is one of the best places to be in Advent. When I can’t sleep, I creep out to the living room to be alone with our Christmas tree. I sit in the stillness of my Lego-strewn living room, lit by the twinkly lights, and breathe in the lengthened seconds. Zach will be stumbling out of bed any moment, dressed in dinosaur pajamas, ready to start another gumdrop day.