The Christmas season brings with it a heightened feeling that something wonderful is coming.
Can you sense it?
Like a faint sound in the distance drawing nearer. Like the waiting at the airport to be reunited with a loved one as they emerge from the terminal. Like the moment right before the sun peaks out from behind the horizon. Like a promise about to come true. Something wonderful is coming.
“For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.” (Frederick Buechner)
Advent. It means, something wonderful is coming.
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the liturgical calendar that starts every year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It is a time for making room and priming our hearts to treasure Christ. And yet amid all the frenetic end-of-year chaos, it’s far too easy to squander these precious moments of waiting. We know all too well what it is like for December to blur by and to arrive on the doorstep of Christmas as another exhausted casualty of our consumeristic age.
Reacting. Organizing. Shopping. Planning. Wrapping. Budgeting. Stressing. Eating. Stress-eating.
So I am writing to those, like me, who need to slow down and embrace the oft-missed words of the famous carol, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”
ADVENT: A SEASON OF REMEMBERING
As we remember God’s promises fulfilled at Christmas, we are reminded of just how intensely the incarnation of Christ shook the world! The meaning of Christmas goes miles deeper than a public holiday, family traditions, pretty lights, and a chance to refresh your depleted stockpile of socks.
Christmas means revolution! Christmas means miracle! Christmas means that God has come to us!
The King of Heaven exchanged His throne for a cradle.
The Almighty swaddled Himself with vulnerability.
The Creator entered into His own creation.
The Author put Himself on the page.
The Infinite became an infant.
The Giver became the gift.
Jesus came as Immanuel – ‘God with us.’ Remembering that God has drawn near, deepens in me an appetite to seek Him.
ADVENT: A SEASON OF ANTICIPATING
There is something in observing Advent that awakens not only joyful remembrance over the first coming of Christ, but also a deep, yearning eagerness for His second coming (Revelation 22:20). In many ways, the Church of this present age is in a similar position to God’s people toward the end of the Old Testament – marginalised in exile, hoping in the darkness, waiting in the stillness for the Day when Christ returns and (in Tolkien’s words) “makes every sad thing come untrue.”
Like a child on Christmas Eve caught between the joyful memories of the Christmas that was, while waiting with breathless anticipation for the Christmas about to be, so are God’s people living between the Hallelujah! of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha! of Christ’s return.
It is here – in the waiting of Advent – that God’s people discover a unique species of joy that can only be glimpsed through the lens of worshipful anticipation.
Timothy Paul Jones writes, “In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning, recognizing it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for the divine banquet Jesus is preparing for us. In Advent, the church admits, as poet R. S. Thomas puts it, that “the meaning is in the waiting.” And what we await is a final Advent yet to come. Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the coming of the Messiah in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.”
Advent is a way of reminding us that we are pilgrims passing through, that the brokenness of this world isn’t how it’s always going to be, that the true King will indeed soon return.
PREPARING OUR HEARTS FOR CHRISTMAS
Like with all things, knowing where to begin is usually the most difficult part. Below are some resources that will help you (and your family) slow down each day and cultivate worshipful anticipation through the Advent season. For families, observing Advent together might just be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the very first time.
- Individuals: Come Let us Adore Him by Paul Tripp (Amazon) (Koorong e-book)
- Families: Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (Amazon) (Koorong)
- Free: The Dawning of Indestructible Joy by John Piper (free download)
- Free: Austin Stone Church have put out a brilliant advent devotional the past few years that can be accessed here.
December will be busy. But it doesn’t have to be a blur. Let’s begin preparing room in our hearts this Advent for Immanuel – the God who is with us.