Merriam-Webster defines Advent as “the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting.” I think that’s true but I also feel that Advent is a season of waiting with expectation. What are we fasting and praying for after all? If this is indeed a season of spiritual renewal shouldn’t there be a purpose behind it?
As Christians today, we get excited with the arrival of Christmas decorations in the store and count down the days with anticipation decorating hearth and home along the way. There are countless cookies to be made and parties to attend. When we attend Church we wait with expectation of hearing messages of hope, peace, joy and love. We’re preparing for the moment. That moment when the world is changed forever. We want to experience God’s entry into the world but only if the service on Christmas Eve ends with candlelight and Silent Night being sung. We have traditions. We have expectations. We desire for things to go completely as planned and we want to celebrate as much as possible.
Sometimes in this anticipation, in this desire to experience the best of Christmas I fear we may have missed the point. This baby brings with him a change in the world. In a sense, this change is exactly what we asked for and what we as people are most afraid of. This baby brings God to each person. When Jesus arrived on earth, God was in a sense saying ‘I want to be in complete relationship with you’. God wants a relationship. God wants a connection. Advent is the answer to the many prayers for salvation but the answer wasn’t what expected. The answer was relationship. Salvation didn’t come in military victory but in the form of a connection with God.
What does that mean for us today? Advent for us is a celebration of God’s involvement in our lives but how many of us actually allow for that involvement. When we pray do we expect the answer we desire or do we listen for God’s will and direction?
Advent for us needs to be a re-connecting with the amazing gift of a relationship with God. Advent is supposed to be a season of prayer and fasting. God loved us so much that he sent his son and was willing to see him die so that we might live. This is an intense gift and an incredible blessing. When we realize how important we are in God’s eyes we can start to imagine what could be accomplished if we just listen and trust. We need to set aside time to be with God so we can truly experience that gift.
Think of the first Advent.
Think of how much trust and courage was involved in bringing Jesus into the world. Mary had to agree to carry a child outside of wedlock while engaged to another man. Joseph needed to believe that Mary was a good woman and that God had blessed her with this gift. Together they travelled hundreds of miles while pregnant, alone and likely scared of what was to come. When the baby arrived they needed to find shelter and warmth and all they could find was a stable. The trust that was involved. The courage that was required. The faith that was required by both of them. It is incredible. They helped to bring our greatest blessing into the world and God was with them along the way because they believed.
How many of us would be able to do that? How many of us would have that kind of faith in God? Do we trust that things will happen in our lives? Do we listen when we pray or do we just demand? Can we honestly say we have a relationship with God? Imagine what could happen in our world today if we just put our trust in God.
This Advent we’ve been working on our Advent Project to make sure it meant something more than just decorations, presents and a candlelit service. Our family wanted Christmas to be less about us and more about God. It’s working I think. We’re still frantic with our preparations. I’m still going to hit the mall searching for the perfect gift. I still wonder what I should serve for dinner when my friends and family come over. I attempt to decorate, bake and nurture my family during this beautiful holiday season. Sometimes I forget to take a moment to relax, read the story and experience what the season is about until that moment when I realize we need to complete our Advent Project for the day. So far it’s been a great discipline for us. It’s forced us to remember the reason for the season. It’s encouraged us to pray, to connect and to grow. I’m thankful that we’re all participating in it. We’re experiencing the fun and also encountering God.
We’re at the half-way point in our little experiment and while I can see a lot of good that has come from our scheduled time, there are always things we can do better. Over the next 2 weeks I plan to focus more on prayer and reflection. I’ll still continue to do our daily tasks but I want to set time aside each morning to connect with God in stillness.
Thanks for joining us on journey to Bethlehem. We’re half way there and it feels like time is moving so quickly. I hope you’re enjoying the exercises and that you’ve found family time to be a blessing in your preparations. What I would like to know is how you will continue to along this journey and if there’s anything you’ve added that you’d like to share.