Not so long ago, Christmas trees and Bing Crosby music made their appearance in late November or early December. These days we can find tinsel and greeting cards right across the aisle from jack-o-lanterns and Harry Potter costumes sometime around October. Perhaps next year we’ll be able to purchase poinsettias around Labor Day. Personally, I love the sights, smells and sounds of Christmas whenever they arise. But if I focus on the trimmings without a greater context, I miss a wonderful opportunity to experience the deep realities of my faith and instead set myself up for inevitable disappointment and anxiety amidst frenetic activity. I exit the season with no more spiritual insight than when it began.
As we observe the four weeks of Advent (meaning “arrival” or “coming”), we ground our celebration in biblical and historical ways. Since about the 4th century, believers have observed Advent in some form. Until relatively recent times, the Christmas season itself was observed from December 25 to January 6 (the “12 days of Christmas”) with Advent serving as a time of waiting and anticipation leading up to the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is also a time of looking forward to the second coming of Christ.
Expectation. Preparation. Repentance. Joy. These are the attitudes of worship that accompany the Advent season. Rather than conjuring up feelings of Christmas cheer because we’re “supposed to” be jolly, we can meditate on Scripture that points us to unshakable reasons for true joy.
As we enter the first week of Advent, we ask the Holy Spirit to plant in our hearts seeds of expectation. Sit with the following scripture passages throughout the week. Read through them slowly and notice any words or phrases that stand out to you. Come to your quiet time expecting that God will meet you.
An Advent Prayer by Henri Nouwen
Lord Jesus, Master of both the light and the darkness,
Send your Holy Spirit upon our preparations for Christmas.
We who have so much to do
Seek quiet spaces to hear your voice each day.
We who are anxious over many things
Look forward to your coming among us.
We who are blessed in so many ways
Long for the complete joy of your kingdom.
We whose hearts are heavy,
Seek the joy of your presence.
We are your people, walking in darkness, yet seeking light.
To you we say, Come Lord Jesus....