Do not be in a hurry to get to Christmas — embrace Advent
I know this is going to sound crazy but don’t be in a hurry to get to Christmas.
I know the world around us has already begun to get in the “Christmas spirit.” Now that Thanksgiving is over it is a mad dash of buying presents, decorating, attending holiday parties, visiting family and friends, and hearing all the Christmas music you could want. The celebration is unavoidable.
But don’t be in a hurry to get to Christmas.
This may seem like a strange thing for a pastor to say. Perhaps it’s my disdain for the way the world has co-opted and commercialized Christmas. Perhaps it’s my frustration with the church that embraces so many things about this season that have nothing to do with Jesus and yet gets upset when people say, “Happy Holidays,” as if Christians themselves aren’t celebrating many holidays this time of year. Perhaps, I’m just being a Scrooge. Perhaps, in the midst of a very noisy and busy time of year, I just need some time to slow down, reflect upon my faith, and be still in God’s presence.
Thank goodness for Advent. Advent is a period of preparation, of waiting, of expectation. Many churches celebrate Advent during the four Sundays before Christmas. It really isn’t until Christmas Eve and Christmas Day that we celebrate Christmas. And then there is a whole season of celebration of Christmas that goes into the New Year!
Advent allows us to slow down and prepare our hearts to remember when “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood,” (John 1:14, The Message). Advent allows us to prepare our hearts and lives in anticipation for Jesus’ return, hearing the words of the prophet Isaiah, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain,” (Isaiah 40:3-4, NIV). This season is about repentance where we take stock of where we fall short of God’s glory and turn our lives back to God.
Advent reorients our focus from the world to Jesus. The world focuses on presents but we focus on God’s great gift of salvation. The world projects an illusion of peace but we seek to live out the ways of the Prince of Peace. The world wraps itself up in the commercialization and pageantry of the season but we remember our savior who was born without any fanfare. The world may sing songs of snow, Santa, and Christmas trees, but we sing with Mary about a God whose “mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation,” and who “has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty,” (Luke 1:50, 53, NRSV).
We are invited into a time of reflection, repentance, and preparation. What do we need to do to prepare the way of the Lord in our lives? How have we responded to the Good News of God’s great love for all through Jesus Christ? Do our celebrations and participation in this hyper-commercialized holiday really honor Jesus? What value does the story of God coming to us as a newborn baby really hold for us?
I’d argue that this story reminds us that God so longs to be in relationship with us that God became one of us. This story reminds us that God’s power is so unlike our understandings of power that God came, not with an army of angels, but as a fragile baby boy. This story reminds us that Jesus came not just to give us a ticket to heaven when we die but to show us how to live here and now. This story will prepare us to give ourselves in love for our God and for our neighbors.
So don’t be in a hurry to get to Christmas.
Instead, slow down and focus on your journey of faith. Recall the time when God became one of us in Jesus. Prepare your heart for when Jesus returns in final victory. You don’t have to rush to Christmas simply because the world is already there. Be still and reflective with God during Advent and perhaps you’ll find yourself experiencing a less chaotic and a more joyful Christmas.
Grace and peace, my friends.
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