As a child I remember counting down the days as Christmas drew nearer. It seemed as if the day would never arrive. Knowing that Christmas morning meant family, gifts, and the family tradition of hot cross buns, I couldn’t wait for that joyous day to arrive. It was a day to celebrate the birth of God into the world—a reason for unbridled joy.
As a child, I had trouble understanding why we couldn’t start opening the gifts a few days (or weeks) early. What was the point of waiting? If Christmas is such a joyful time, why not enjoy it sooner?
Obviously, this question is not unique to children. We in the worshiping community also have a tendency to rush things a bit. That’s why I easily understand when people wonder why we don’t just start our celebrating earlier since we know what’s down the road. Really, it’s a fair question. After all, we live in a world filled with the presence of Christ. But, the church’s season of Advent waiting serves to heighten in us the awareness of our need for a savior, a savior whose birth we will celebrate on Christmas Eve.
And so we wait. We hear again the beautiful visions of Isaiah about a child born to us that will bring peace. We listen again to John the Baptist’s fiery sermons about repentance and the nearness of God’s kingdom. We marvel again at the splendor of Mary’s song about God setting things right. And, if we’re not careful, we’ll forget that Isaiah sang of peace in the midst of war. We’ll forget that John spoke in the wilderness. We’ll forget that Mary sang about the poor being lifted up while they were still being held down. Make no mistake: There will be unbridled joy on Christmas Eve, but we in the church dare not rush past these important voices on our way to the manger.
May God enable our Advent waiting to be filled with expectant hope. And, as you consider what gifts to give those you love, remember to give the gifts which ultimately transform the world: offer peace; give hope; embrace forgiveness; show patience; share laughter. May God’s richest blessings surround you during these days of waiting which will soon give way to unbridled joy.
Grace and peace,