Waiting is hard. No one likes to wait. Over and over our culture has taught that time is money and your personal time is a precious commodity that you need to protect and use wisely. From this stems the deep emotions of impatience and ingratitude whenever our time is wasted. It is almost if we somehow feel violated if someone dares to impose on our time in a way that is unworthy of us. This fear of waiting combined with the yearning to receive cool gifts has made us wish for Christmas sooner and sooner each year. Yet when you show up in church, you discover that Christmas has not yet started, it is time for Advent first!
Advent is all about waiting. It reminds us what it was like for God’s people before Jesus came the very first time. There was much that was wrong with their country. The violence was out of hand. In mass, people were turning away from God to embrace a way of living that worshiped hedonism. And the value of human life was dwindling away. Does this sound familiar? It seems like the world we face today is very similar. In the midst of this the people were waiting. They were waiting for God to answer their cries. To do something. To fix their lives, country, and world. They were waiting for the Messiah to save them.
During Advent, God calls us to not only remember how anxiously God’s people waited before Christ’s birth – but to wait faithfully in our own time. Just like them, we are waiting for the coming of the Messiah. And just like them, we often struggle with the waiting. “Is Jesus really coming?” I know this is what was promised, but since it has been over two thousand years it is easy to doubt and to forget. As one blog writer put it “The same questions that must have plagued God’s people before Christmas continue to pursue us after. Advent helps me see that I’m not alone when the waiting gets difficult and the questions loom.”
When we skip Advent, we forget to ask and wonder about Jesus’ return. We forget that we are supposed to wait and wrestle with our doubts. Instead we tend to ignore our doubts, pretend that they are not there and allow them to slowly eat away at our faith.
But when we take time to celebrate Advent we are reminded that the people in the Christmas story (Mary, Joseph, Wise men, Angels, Shepherds, Elizabeth, and Zachariah) all understood that their stories were wrapped up in God’s large story of promise and hope. The events happening around them were not really about them, but about God’s answer to a broken world. Celebrating Advent helps to prepare us so that we are not caught up in the “this is all about me” mentality of Christmas. The celebration is not about what gifts I give or receive, what others think about how I decorated my house, or what parties I have been invited to. Christmas is the story of God’s promise to redeem a lost world. Advent reminds us that we are still living in the light of those promises.
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