At first glance, the Christmas episode of Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid has all the characteristics of your average anime Christmas. Outrageous decorations? Check. Christmas pageant that almost goes horribly wrong but ends up working out in a heartwarming way? Check. After-party and romantic (well, somewhat romantic) gift exchange? Check.
In reality, though, this episode isn’t a Christmas episode at all—it’s really an Advent episode! Advent is a season of anticipation, preparation, and fellowship. It’s a time when we remember together Jesus’s birth two thousand years ago in a lowly city in Judea, and prepare ourselves to celebrate the anniversary of that birth on Christmas Day. And so we anticipate, we wait, and we count down the days until we can truly celebrate.
And this is exactly what the ‘Christmas episode’ of Kobayashi is all about: It’s more about the time leading up to Christmas than Christmas itself. In particular, there’s a little side story tucked into a few short scenes in this episode that expresses several themes that have more to do with the Advent season than its culmination on Christmas Day. Let’s explore them a little, shall we?
Decking the Halls
It’s a few days before Christmas, and Kanna, Kobayashi’s dragon daughter, is starting to get worried. You see, there’s one thing that she’s looking forward to this year, and that’s the visit of a certain red-coated guest, whose sleigh carries a wealth of gifts and other delights for kids everywhere. There’s just one problem though: Santa can’t come if there’s no chimney! (At least, according to one of Kanna’s friends from school.)
Tohru, the titular dragon maid, thinks for a moment and comes up with a plan: If there’s no chimney at their apartment, then they’ll just have to make one! So Kobayashi returns home to find the most cozy (if also the most hazardous) Christmas setup in all of Japan: stockings, brick fireplace, and flickering flames included. Kanna is ready for Christmas!
Tohru can already breathe fire. We didn’t need this extra fire hazard!
That brings us back to one of the key themes of Advent: preparation. It’s almost time for Christmas, and so we prepare our hearts for the celebration. That means refocusing our attention on what Christmas means: what it meant two thousand years ago for the followers of God, who were longing for a king to come to set them free from the injustice of this world and restore it to what it was always meant to be, surrounding them with a love that doesn’t let go, kindly ruling over them, and bringing peace. Lasting peace. That peace has come into the world, and we prepare ourselves to receive it.
But this preparation doesn’t just mean we’re sitting in silence, praying and repenting and waiting for Jesus to just get born already so we can celebrate. Though we sometimes gloss over it in the busyness of this season, Advent should be fun! Christmas is coming! It’s almost time to celebrate! And so we get ready for the festivities. We prepare gifts for each other. We put up the decorations. We bake together, we laugh together, and we enjoy each other’s company. And yes, we light the fireplace. (Though doesn’t that make it harder for Santa to climb down the chimney?)
We do all these things not only for the sake of tradition, but because we’re joyful—joyful that our king is drawing near.
That’s the point of Advent. And Kanna can help us remember that. While we’re laughing at the absurdity of her outlandish Christmas setup, we’re reminded that hanging stockings and creating a cozy Yuletide setting at home is our way of expressing our joy that Christmas is coming soon.
Waiting for Christmas
That brings us to the second theme of this little side story, and of Advent too: anticipation.
After all, our king hasn’t come yet. We’re still waiting for Christmas, both we and Kanna. And so even as we prepare for Christmas and rejoice as we prepare, we’re looking forward to even greater joy on the day itself. We’re anticipating—expectantly and eagerly awaiting the celebration to come. And that waiting is another part of what it means to be in Advent.
For Kanna, though, anticipation looks more like frenetic suspense. Tohru already reassured her that Santa won’t be coming until Christmas Day so she doesn’t have to worry, but that doesn’t make her any less nervous as she waits. Brooding in front of the fireplace, she begins to wonder: Does Santa even know where she is? How is he supposed to know, anyway? (Does he keep the addresses of dragons?)
So Kobayashi returns home to find a truly splendid LED show.
Again, we laugh at this absurd caricature because it’s touching on something near to our hearts: that skittish, restless feeling we associate with the days leading up to Christmas. Our excitement puts us on edge. We can’t sleep on Christmas Eve. We want our presents, and we want them now! We want to know: Is it going to be a white Christmas? What food are we going to eat? Who’s coming to celebrate?
I’m sure you can relate to that feeling of waiting eagerly for a good thing. For me, it was the McDonalds’ Happy Meal that my parents would stuff us kids with on Sunday after a long day at church. The wonderfully unhealthy chicken nuggets, the world-class fries, the apple juice box—just thinking about the meal had me wriggling in my seat!
In the same way, during Advent, we anticipate the birth of Jesus. We wait eagerly for Christmas because we long for the good news of Jesus’s coming to be fully realized. We long for salvation, for the goodness and peace and justice of his reign. And we look forward to the day when those things will be an ever-present reality, when we will taste the full joy of the kingdom of God and celebrate together with him.
And that joy is available for all of us, even if this is a hard season for you.
Sometimes the Advent or Christmas season can be draining. Dealing with relatives and friends you don’t see often on top of the festivities can be a lot to handle. Or maybe this time of the year reminds you of the loss of a loved one, or of deep rifts in your family. Whatever the case may be, Advent can be a time for you to present your sorrows and worries to God in prayer, to hear the comfort of your King scribbled across the pages of Scripture, and to remind yourself that what we see of this world isn’t all there is.
We anticipate a future hope that will eradicate all sorrow, all loneliness, all shame—a celebration that will transform our tears of sadness into tears of joy.
Celebrating in Community
In the meantime, as we prepare for and anticipate Christmas, we do so in community. Advent isn’t something that we observe alone; it’s a season of the church calendar, and so we observe it together with the people of God.
Part of Kanna’s story in Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid involves her learning what it looks like to live in human society. When Kanna arrives in the human world at the beginning of the show, she reacts with suspicion towards the humans she sees, wary of being used or mistreated or betrayed. When she first meets Kobayashi, she shrinks away from Kobayashi’s goodwill, afraid to trust the kindness she’s being shown. But Kobayashi continues to treat her with hospitable love and persistent care. She gives Kanna a home; she welcomes Kanna into her community. And it’s there, nestled within the warm fellowship of Kobayashi and her friends, that Kanna comes to trust humans and to live alongside them.
Ultimately, It’s because of Kobayashi that Kanna celebrates Christmas in the first place. After all, celebrating the birth of God’s Son just isn’t something that dragons do, as Tohru points out! Kanna’s only able to celebrate Christmas because she was welcomed and accepted into a community of people who taught her how to celebrate. Kanna doesn’t celebrate alone. And because she doesn’t, she’s able to grow.
So it is with us also. It’s within Jesus’s body that we celebrate his coming. That includes Sundays and Christmas services, but it also includes the small moments we share together each Advent season, the little joys we share with fellow believers, the encouragement we receive and give, our small and often insignificant ways of showing we welcome and accept one another.
When we celebrate together, we draw closer to each other. And when we draw closer to each other, we change for the better.
Kobayashi‘s Christmas episode paints a beautiful picture of what it looks like to celebrate Advent: to celebrate before the celebration, to look forward to Christmas in fullness and joy and fellowship.
Maybe it’s a familiar picture to you, and you find that it resembles your traditional festivities.
Or maybe it’s not so familiar, and you find yourself wishing things were different.
Whatever the case may be, the promise of Advent presents itself here to you: the promise of a King who came two thousand years ago to establish a kingdom of peace and love, and who will come again to bring it to completion.
So get ready to celebrate! Or if that’s too much, take heart in the fact that there will come a day when you will be ready. Invite some friends (or maybe welcome a stranger, though check for dragon horns first). Read the first chapters of Luke. Reflect and pray. Put up those decorations! And let yourself get excited. It’s good to be joyful!
If we look forward to Christmas the way Kanna does, we might just find that the celebration becomes that little bit more meaningful.
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid can be streamed on Crunchyroll.