Advent

I have a love-hate relationship with waiting. I totally believe that we don’t do enough of it. At least I know I don’t. 2 of my 3 kids and I were sneaking listening to Christmas music when dad and the other kid weren’t around, because they thought we should wait until Thanksgiving at least….But it was so hard to wait when it was already on the radio.
When I have to wait at the doctor or something, I always try to bring something to do so that my time isn’t “wasted.”
But even though I don’t really like waiting, Advent, which is the season of waiting, is my favorite season of the church year.
Many years ago, I attended a retreat on the liturgical year at Holden Village. One of the things I was taught is that a beauty and a gift of the church year, is that it prepares us for facing times in our lives when we have to do in life what we have learned to do in the church. Lent is an example. Lent is a time of taking away, of doing without, of focusing on suffering and death with the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We all live Lent at times in our lives. We suffer and we face death. And when we go through Lent in church, we learn that death does not get the final say. That love and life and Jesus win in the end, and if that is true for the church, then it is and it will be true in my life.
Advent started today–Sunday, November 30. Advent is the four Sundays before Christmas. And Advent is a time of waiting. And even though I might be playing Christmas music in my car, I won’t hear very much in church. Because Advent helps me to practice waiting. Waiting for Jesus to be born. Waiting for Jesus to come again. Longing for the day when the earth will be redeemed and God will be fully in control again.
I have known families that don’t eat any Christmas cookies until December 24. Or families who wait and plan all of their parties for the 12 days of Christmas—which actually start with Dec. 25, not the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Why? Because it is a good discipline to learn that valuable human skill of waiting. There is that old saying, “feast or famine.” Sometimes I think my kids will never know what that means because we always feast in our culture, and famine is so rare. Seasons like Advent and Lent can teach us about famine so that we can appreciate the feasts.
So how and why do Christians wait? And what do the season and the discipline of Advent teach us? One of the things it teaches me is that I am not to be content with the way the world is. Jesus is not here now like he was when he walked around on the earth. Of course, Jesus is here. He is here through the Holy Spirit, but I long to talk to him, to see him face to face, to have him make this world a just and right place. And so I am waiting for that to happen. It has started, but it isn’t yet complete. Advent teaches me to want what God wants.
But waiting doesn’t mean doing nothing. There is a famous story of someone asking Luther what he would want to be doing when Jesus comes back again, and he said planting an apple tree. I think he said that because he wants to always live in trust and in hope. You don’t plant a tree if you don’t believe it will matter for the future. And so while I know the world is not yet how God wishes it could be, I can help nudge things along. I can love God with all my heart, and love and serve my neighbor as myself. I can live my life working to make the world a godly place.
So that is what we do during Advent. I might not be all that great about waiting, but I can practice. And a blessing of Advent is getting to do just that.

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