As a Mom, a wife, a friend who loves to create all the feels of Christmas in our celebrations and consequently all the work that comes with that, I have had to discipline myself to take time for Advent, to embrace this season of waiting, of silence, of stillness. Advent seems so very out of sync with the noise and busyness of the typical preparedness of Christmas. There is nothing in the world around me, in our Canadian culture, that invites me to this wait. Waiting contributes little to the gross domestic product that our country thrives on. However, being counter cultural this December will reap benefits to my soul and consequently to those I love.
This year Christmas promises to be very different for most of us. Will we get to be with family and those we love at all in ways we are accustomed to? The normal gatherings, parties, and shared experiences that I so enjoy will be very unlikely.
And, 2020 has brought us more than just COVID-19 restrictions and physical distance to contend with. It’s brought racial tensions and inequities heightened to levels I’ve not seen for many years. It’s brought divisive elections highlighted in all our social media feeds. It’s brought the devastation of fires and floods and an in-our-face confrontation with the fact that our whole creation groans. This has been a year like none other I have ever experienced.
There is no denying that the earth is shaking and crying out for justice, for God’s Kingdom to come, for the return of King Jesus, for all things to be made new. We’re all asking ‘how long’ Lord until you make things right, how long until you come again?
But in the midst of all of this challenge and pain, this is the year to embrace Advent more than ever.
In the early centuries of the church, Advent was a season of fasting, of preparation and penance to prepare for Epiphany, the celebration of God becoming flesh represented by the visit of the Magi. It wasn’t until the middle ages that Advent was tied to the birth of Christ.
I invite you to think of Advent more in terms of the waiting for His second coming when He will make all things right and new.
Scripture is full of times of waiting. It is entwined throughout Biblical stories.
Noah waits for the rains to come.
Abram and Sarai wait for a son to arrive.
Jacob waits for a wife.
Israel waits to arrive in the promised land.
Jonah waits for punishment to come to Ninevah.
Those in exile wait to return to Jerusalem.
400 years of silence as the prophets wait for Immanuel.
Creation waits for its King’s return.
Humankind waits. We wait for reconciliation and redemption, for healing and wholeness, for vaccines and miracles, for prodigals to return, for debts to be repaid, for jobs to be found, for reuniting with those that have gone on ahead, for full restoration.
Waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. Waiting can be active.
First of all, while we wait, we can be listening. We can lean in, draw near to God and spend more time to actively hear from Him. We can listen for God’s still small voice. What is the message He is speaking to us as we wait? Is He convicting us of something we need to confess and to make right with Him? What is He longing to teach us as we wait this Advent?
Secondly, we can make some declarations as we wait. Declarations to ourselves, to our world, and to the heavenlies. The very act of waiting for Jesus to come and to set things right proclaims that we believe Jesus is sovereign,. He is all -sufficient for our every need. We need to declare these truths to ourselves. The discipline of waiting sharpens this belief that our focus is on the subject of our waiting, Jesus, the Saviour and ruler of the world. We wait in the hope of His certain return and the ultimate answer to no matter what we’re waiting for. Teach us Lord to wait, to wait on you.
Thirdly, we can be active by being others-focused while we wait. We can rise to His call to give a cup of cold water in His name; to alleviate suffering where we see it; to stand in justice for the oppressed. We must be in tune to Jesus’ heart for the world – for those we call neighbours, for the community in which He has placed us, and for the whole world. People all around us are waiting too. They are weary and some are broken and this year they are likely wearier than ever before. Advent helps me see again just how much my world needs Jesus.
What are you waiting for this Advent season?