Through the years, I have celebrated the Advent season as a time of reflection and anticipation. For Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving, the Advent season begins the Sunday after turkey day and ends on Christmas Eve. This is a time for Christians to prepare and wait for God’s promise of salvation through the birth of the Christ child. Many people, especially children, would agree that this is a season of waiting, not for the baby in the manger, but for Santa to deliver presents to the nice and coal to the naughty. Like the children, many churches do not wait but jump right into the Advent season by singing Christmas carols, like “Joy to the World the Lord has come” because it is the season to be jolly. To be honest this was my expectation too. For years counting the number of shopping days, holiday parties, and children’s programs that were left until Christmas Eve were part of my tradition too. That was before I discovered the blessing of the Advent season, which creates a space of waiting and preparation for the birth of the baby Jesus.
This season will once again provide me with an opportunity to self-reflect on this past year. But also a time to look beyond me, and lift up the wars, hurts, fears, the faithlessness and helplessness of the world in prayers for hope and light. The gospel writer of John 1:5 describes Jesus as, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” The star that shines over the stable in Bethlehem as portrayed in the movies and on greeting cards pales in comparison to the light of Christ. This babe’s birth changes everything! His lowly birth in a stable tells the story of humility, his flight from certain death by King Herod describes moments of fear, and his birth to a very young mom and carpenter father builds on a future fraught with real life difficulties and perhaps poverty. This is the magic of Christmas. Through Jesus, God becomes like us to experience life as a human being. But the divine nature of Jesus frees us from fear, certain death and shines a light of hope in a world of darkness. My professor, Karoline Lewis says it best, “Why Advent? To help us see beyond our present. Why Advent? To give us a lens through which to see God at work when it seems only evil gets the spotlight. Why Advent? To assure us that God has secured a future for us that breaks into our present, and really, truly changes our here and now.” What are you waiting for?