Happy New Year! Did you know there was a secular year and a church year? We all know the secular year begins in January. But, the church year begins with Advent! So Happy New Year! Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24).
So this week, I began to wonder, what is Advent and hat does it mean to us? I proposed this question on my Twitter and Facebook pages today. My challenge was to define Advent in one or two words. Here are some of the answers I got: Baby Shower, Anticpation, Getting Ready, Great Expectation.
Then I read this about Advent: "Let’s use our imaginations – I see two parts: ad and vent. Stay with me on this. Ad is short for advertising. Vent is a hole in the floor or ceiling that lets air flow into a room. The two combined form the word Advent. If you follow my “logic” here, a reasonable assumption would be that Advent means advertising airflow. Really? Well, don’t save that for your SAT. But think: If we “do” Advent well, then our very lives flow in a way that advertises Jesus!" What a concept!
So, just how do we do Advent well? We wait! Seriously / Technically Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” During the four weeks before Christmas, Christians celebrate and look forward to both the coming of Jesus. So why all this waiting? After all, this is the 21st century! We can drive 70 miles per hour; DSL lets us surf the Net without a wait; FedEx can deliver in 24 hours. So, why wait?
Why not just jump right to Christmas? Because waiting is a good teacher. To wait well is something that must be learned.
So, let’s take some time to explore waiting in Scripture. Each passage reveals something about waiting well. There are some tips we can use to wait well all year!
1. Wait with “Presence” (said "Presents")
Read Matthew 2:1-2 and 9b-12 = the wise men deliver presnets.
Of course, there’s got to be presents at Christmas right? Or it’s not Christmas! I mean even the wise men brought Jesus presents! So, they must have been the original creators of gift giving! And, two things, they came from really far away and gave some pretty extraordinary / extravagant gifts for that day and time. But here’s the deal, after they gave these “presents,” they offered Jesus their “presence” by worshipping Him. The wisw men went out of their way to claim this relationship and worship Jesus. We can do the same today and claim that relationship and have God present in our lives. The challenge is to have God’s presence so integrated into our lives that when others look at us / interact with us, they should sense that "presence."
2. Wait with patience
Read Luke 1:5-25 = Zechariah and Elizabeth (John the Baptists parents)
Zechariah and Elizabeth had been waiting for a child. Zechariah was a priest; in those days, if a priest didn’t have a male child he could be excommunicated from the church. Zechariah must have feared this but waited and waited patiently.
Also, we read that Elizabeth isolates herself for 5 months after learning she is pregnant. This allows her to prepare for what is likely in her old age to be a tough child-birth. But can you imagine not leaving your house for 5 months? That would take some patience! So we know here that when we are patient in our waiting, good things can happen.
3. Wait for Wisdom
Read John 8:3-9 = Pharisees try to trick Jesus
How does Jesus handle this moment? He waits! Jesus takes time to think and ponder. Then he bends down and begins to write on the ground with his finger. Is he stalling for time or could he be teaching us to wait well by waiting for wisdom to respond in a Godly way? I don’t know about you, but when I get into a tense situation, I have a bad habit of just saying whatever I am feeling, especially when I am upset. But we learn here that we are called to wait for wisdom and that there is big value in it. Our problems (i.e. the stoners) tend to dissipate or not seem as intimidating when we wait with wisdom.
So you can see, there’s lots of waiting! And waiting is certainly a theme of Advent. But, we Americans seem to totally get caught up in stress and forget to anticipate the arrival of Christ! Think about the things that are stressing you right now: schoolwork, Christmas parties, gift buying, parents, friends, family obligations, etc. No matter how much you worry about everything going on or all that you have to do, Christmas is still going to come on December 25. We will still be blessed by Christ's birth.
So how do we make Advent a special time? Wait well! Wait with presence, wait with patience, wait for wisdom.