Granite Springs is joining in with churches all around the world this season to celebrate Advent. We might be clear on why we celebrate Christmas, but the liturgical season of Advent can be a little murkier.
“I can’t believe the store has already put out their Christmas decorations.” You might have heard that before. Or you might have said it. I sure have.
We go to the store one week and everything is red, white and blue for 4th of July. The next week it’s Christmas. The seasonal decorations run seamlessly together: Christmas into Valentine’s into St. Patrick’s and so on.
Our lives are not solely dictated by grocery store decorations, but perhaps they indicate something a lot of us experience – we move from holiday season to holiday season with barely a thought in between. In this particular period, from Thanksgiving to Christmas, we even have a label for the blur, calling the whole thing “a holiday season” and filling our calendars with parties and “festive obligations.”
Advent, then, seems a little weird. Advent, a season of practicing waiting and longing, starts now? For a lot of us, it feels like we have waited all year for this holiday season. So why has the Church, for many centuries, said that Advent, these weeks leading up to Christmas, is the exact time when we slow down and practice waiting?
Perhaps one reason is because holy-days require preparation. We’re used to thinking about holiday preparation in terms of cooking and decorating, but Christians have long said that there’s another piece to preparing for these special times in the Christian’s year – we make space in our lives and hearts for God to do a fresh work. “Prepare ye, the way of the Lord.”
Advent is a season of waiting, longing and preparation, not because there is little to celebrate at Christmas, but precisely because there is so much to celebrate at Christmas. In order to fully participate, we create the space in our lives to anticipate and enter the celebration.
Creating this space doesn’t look like the mid-morning snack to make sure our stomachs can incorporate Christmas dinner. It looks a lot more like longing for a day when the starving have enough food to feed their families. It looks a lot more like waiting for God to make all things right; for the refugee to be welcomed home and those traumatized by war and hardship to experience healing and restoration.
When we flit from holiday to holiday, the feasting may not diminish, but the holiday’s redemptive power does. It becomes easy to forget the very things that need to be redeemed, the things Advent encourages us to take notice of – the broken world around us, our relationships with family and friends, and our very hearts.
Of course, this is not a condemnation of the joy that accompanies this time of year for so many of us. But perhaps we can remember in the midst of our parties and cocoa, that our primary posture as Christians is one where we long for the joy of Christmas to no longer be something we wait for, but to be our eternal reality.
If you want to join us in practicing waiting this Advent season, here are some things we’re doing as a church that we would love to have you join in on.
- Reflective reading and listening to Scripture (an ancient practice called lectio divina) on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings at 7pm at Granite Springs Church.
- Take time to ponder and memorize Isaiah 9:2-7.
- Particularly if you have younger kids, pick up the Jesse Tree after a Sunday morning service as a way to remember how people in the Bible waited for Jesus.