It’s amazing how the powers-that-be keep moving Christmas, particularly Christmas shopping, earlier and earlier on our calendar. They can’t even wait, nor can we, for Black Friday. The leftover turkey is thrown into the refrigerator, the dishes are still stacked in the sink, and the last bite of pumpkin pie is scarfed down in a rush to get in line for the deals on Thanksgiving night.
Christmas, if we’re not careful, becomes more about presents and busyness than about anticipating the Birth of Jesus. Instead of longing for Christ to come, the world is eagerly anticipating iPhone Virtually Video Glasses and the Remee Mind Control Dreaming Mask.
Advent begins the “New Year” in the liturgy of Western Christian Churches. That’s right, Advent not Christmas is the beginning of the Church’s annual rhythm. It seems that by giving in to the cultural ideals of Christmas we could be missing out on a rich experience in waiting, longing, and anticipating the arrival of Jesus.
Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It refers to the coming of the Messiah. It also refers to the Second Coming of Christ. It is a time of longing, anticipating, and preparing for Jesus’ coming into the world.
Imagine being there in the time of Christ’s birth. Israel longed for the Messiah. Besides the general anticipation of His coming, they also found themselves in a time of drought. Not a physical drought, but a long period of time where God was silent. There were no prophets speaking to the world. Nothing. Silence. What would it be like to anticipate and await the coming of the Messiah in this time?
I can identify with these times of God’s silence. In these times, there is a deep longing for God that isn’t always there in times of comfort and prosperity. My prayers become more raw and primal. I’m more desperate to hear from Him and seeing Him come near.
I think that this is the gift that Advent gives us. It allows us to enter into a time of waiting, seeking, longing, and preparing for Christmas. In order to do so, we must abstain from Christmas for a time and be present fully in the Advent experience.
The hymn, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” leads us in a spirit of longing…
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Advent begins Sunday, December 1, 2013, and ends Sunday, December 22, 2013. I would invite you to participate in Advent this year. One way to do this is to clear some space in your life to do a daily reading that prepares you for Christmas. Here is a link that will guide you in your waiting.
Artwork: ”The Dream of St. Joseph,” Georges de la Tour (1593-1652)