Waiting and waiting and waiting. Is that all life–and faith–are all about? Waiting and waiting and waiting.
Advent is the season of expectation and hope for the coming savior. That’s what the word advent means: coming. Pastor Daniel Disch of Missoula, MT reminded his congregation that Advent is not the season of Christmas. It’s the season of expectation and waiting. Christmas season starts on Christmas Day and lasts for twelve days until Epiphany, not the day after Thanksgiving when Black Friday sales erupt and Christmas music plays in all the stores and on all the radio stations–or sooner now days.
Have you ever waited so long for anything it felt like it’d never arrive? An excited child waits for Christmas morning so they can unwrap presents. A young woman waits for her beau to pop the question or to have a child. A man with a dream who knows if he just works a little harder, longer, smarter… All normally have a joyous grande finale. But what about the child who has no parents? What about the woman who finds out her beau betrayed her instead of pledging a lifetime together? What about the hoped for dream that never materializes?
What if our worries prove true and all the waiting is for nothing? Waiting is terrifying without hope. It seems our society has lost the art of expectation in our give-it-to-me-now media, grab-it-off-the-shelf shopping, and fast-food lifestyle. Somehow our comprehension of hope lessened along the way too. Who has to learn to hope when everything you want is always handed right to you?
But the real world is full of disappointments. In our every day lives, disappointment looms like a cliff dropping off into a deep canyon. During these harsh economic times, we wait to find out if we’ll crash into that sense of emptiness. Will there be a job? Will the paycheck meet the bills? What if there’s an emergency? We worry. We wait hoping for relief from our struggles. We hurt from the worry.
Advent acts like a bridge between our time of daily waiting and the goal on the other side, the joy of celebration.
The season of Advent allows us to contemplate the heart of God more than any other time. Look at the season from His point of view. He’s already sent His son, Jesus Christ, to save us all from our sin. But God is waiting. He’s waiting for you. He’ll wait and wait and wait.
Can you imagine what it’s like to wait a lifetime for someone you love? Can you imagine giving them freewill to decide whether they want you–or not? Yes, some people can relate to this painful waiting. Can you understand how God feels when you turn it around and look at it this way? He’s in the waiting with you. He’s hoping you’ll love Him too.
10 Ways to help you and your family personalize and understand Advent.
1. Talk about a time when you waited for something or someone. How did it feel? Why did it take so long? Was it worth the wait?
2. Use an Advent calendar to help children understand the concept of passing time. (Didn’t start in time? So what? Many calendars have chocolates or miniature stories in the calendars. Have fun sharing a special night of catching up with your children for a family night.)
3. Look up and understand how the candles and wreath symbolize the concepts of the Advent season. Try some of these links from various religions: http://christianity.about.com/od/christmas/qt/adventwreath.htm or http://www.crivoice.org/cyadvent.html or http://livinghopeomaha.wordpress.com/about-living-hope/bible-stud/the-meaning-of-the-advent-wreath/ or http://www.revneal.org/Writings/adventmeaning.htm or http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/religion/re0132.html
4. Decorate your dining table in either purple or royal blue (either color stands for royalty and signifies the season). Put an Advent wreath on the table. Light a candle each Sunday and the center candle on Christmas Eve. Keep it lit through the actual Twelve Days of Christmas (Dec. 25th-Jan. 6th). Share the meaning of each candle.
5. Journal your worries, those that aren’t able to be solved quickly. Lift up those as prayers and ask the Lord to help you in the waiting time for those answers.
6. Find a bridge and take a picture. Study it. Discuss: Why is it there? What’s it’s purpose? Act: Walk across it with your family. Use that mini experience to help your children understand moving from one place to another. Keep that photo for Christmas Eve and Easter. Help your children understand how Jesus becomes our bridge into eternal life over a gorge of sin.
7. Use royal blue and purple decorations on your tree for the colors of the season.
8. Turn on the Christmas tree lights. Turn out all the house lights. Sit in the quiet with a cup of tea or coffee at night, alone, and consider how this season is Advent-ageous. How does experiencing the expectation and waiting help you worship? How does it help you understand the heart of God? How does it help you understand your salvation?
9. Ask older friends and family what traditions they remember about Advent.
10. Instead of a Christmas party, invite those friends and family over to share those traditions with your family. Ask for stories of long waits for something hoped for, ask for memories of songs, ask them to read children’s books about Advent.
Learning more about the practice of the Christian faith will deepen and enrich our personal faith and that is very Advent-ageous for generations to come.
How do you celebrate Advent?