Discovering Spiritual Truths & Celebrating God's Grace in the Every Day Happenings of Life.
I recently came across this statement, “If you get to December 25th and you are sick of Christmas, then you didn’t do Advent correctly.” Has this happened to you? Have you been exhausted by Christmas? Have you wished these festive days away? Have you found yourself stuck in yuletide survival mode?
We’ve all been there. So, what does it mean to do Advent correctly? Advent starts this Sunday. It is a season of preparation and waiting. It is a season in the church year designed to fix our eyes on the coming of the Lord, the return of our Savior Jesus. It is a countercultural season calling us to slow down as the world moves around us in a fa-la-la-la-la frenzy. Advent reminds us that the Savior who came before in a Bethlehem stable, whose Spirit lives with us still now, will come again. Jesus is coming back. So, during the Advent season we “stay awake and keep alert” (cf. Mark 13:35-37) as we anticipate His return.
Nevertheless, you’d be hard pressed to find any semblance of Advent in our world today. Stores quickly shifted their shelving displays from Halloween to Christmas—with perhaps a small hiatus for Thanksgiving in between. In fact, many stores have already sold out of certain Christmas items and décor. Earlier this week, the only gingerbread houses I found were ones that crumbled during the earthquakes of their shipping and shelving. Even before the last bites of Thanksgiving turkey have been gobbled up and devoured, the Christmas specials have commenced on TV and the non-stop, holly-jolly tunes saturate the airwaves. Even at my home and here at church, there are no lack of Christmas decorations present. They are out and on full display. Even the most faithful Christians can skip through these four weeks to get to the glow of a glitzy, tinsel-filled holiday. As such, before it “begins to look a lot like Christmas,” we need to hit the holiday brakes and make a stop at Advent’s rest area. We need the season of Advent to prep for Christmas—and not in the more time to shop or more cookies to bake sort of prep. But in the “waiting for the revelation of Jesus Christ who will sustain you to the end” (cf. 1 Cor. 1:7) sort of preparation.
A celebration of Christmas will only be upgraded and enriched if we take time to do Advent correctly. Before we get to Christmas it is good to go back to the age-old stories and prophecies. It’s natural to want to “skip to the good parts,” but when we look back, we see that God’s people have often anxiously longed for God to show up and do away with the bad. Over years, decades, and centuries, God repeatedly reminded His people of His promise to deliver them. So, we also, during the four weeks of Advent, cherish and anticipate the hope of God’s people. The more we remember that the people of God have always been “waiting” people, the more we have hope that God is still at work and still with us. During Advent in our church, we will prepare for Christmas by revisiting the prophets, singing the carols, rereading the gospels, and lighting the candles that re-energize our hope, peace, joy, and love. Then we will be better equipped to come alongside Mary and Joseph to celebrate the birth of the world’s most pivotal newborn.
Most Christians are pretty good at celebrating Christmas. It’s kind of our thing. We thrive on it. It’s what we do. But let’s not get there too fast! Slow down and celebrate the simplicity of this waiting season. Join us in worship—before December 24th—and do Advent the right way!
“A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes – and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside – is not a bad picture of Advent.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
“It is the beautiful task of Advent to awaken in all of us memories of goodness and thus to open doors of hope.” (Pope Benedict XVI)
“Advent: the time to listen for footsteps – you can’t hear footsteps when you’re running yourself.” (Bill McKibben)
Pastor Steve Vera