I’m not great at waiting. I’ll venture out on a limb and say we probably have that in common . . . because we are human. The innovative culture in which we live has made waiting almost obsolete. We can order an item online and have it at our doorstep on the same day. We can pay obscene amounts of money to not have to wait in lines at amusement parks. In fact, we can hire professional line-standers so we don’t have to stand in line with everyone else.
Waiting is a thing of the past.
But, God knows there is virtue in waiting.
That’s why we need the season of Advent.
The Church has been praying through the Season of Advent for hundreds of years. As a Catholic, it’s been a part of the rhythm of my spiritual life since I can remember. Liturgical Protestants surely have similar memories. And we’ve seen a recent surge in less traditional Christian churches embracing the season as well. And for good reason too—it draws us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
The Advent season spans the four weeks preceding the Birth of Christ and the Christmas season. It is a season of waiting, joyful anticipation, and hope. It requires that we pause, examine our lives, and ask God to show us anew the great gift that is to come in His Son Jesus Christ on Christmas.
But like any great gift worth waiting for, it requires that we are prepared to receive it. Here are 5 simple ways to dive into Advent this year:
- Clean out the “Inn.” Throughout the year, we collect so much mental, emotional, and spiritual “junk” that, by the time Christmas rolls around, we are out of space for Christ to come and dwell in us. To fully receive Christ at Christmas we have to make space for Him in our hearts. Advent invites us to discern what specifically is keeping us from fully welcoming Christ. Do we need to ask for forgiveness? Get rid of a specific distraction? End a bad relationship? Or, confess our sins? Ask God to reveal what is keeping you from fully welcoming Christ and pray for the courage to act.
- Remember where you came from. To appreciate where we are requires knowing where we came from. The same is true in our faith journey. Advent recalls the journey of our salvation. Spend time either individually, or as a family, reading the Scriptures, in particular the Old Testament covenants, to remember God’s promise to send His people a savior.
- Take a time-out. We spend outrageous amounts of time in front of a TV, computer, phone, or tablet doing mindless, pointless things. Advent calls us to prayer and contemplation. Be intentional about taking a “time-out” from all your “screens.” Instead, spend the extra time praying, reading an Advent devotional, or simply being still. When we create space for God to move and speak to us, He will.
- Change your tune. By now, your town probably has a 24-hour Christmas music station. Classics like “White Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” and “Jingle Bells” are on repeat, and I, for one, love it. But, Advent calls us deeper into a spiritual journey toward the manger. Before blasting the Christmas tunes, consider adding more spiritual songs and hymns with themes of waiting and anticipation that lead our souls in worship. Songs like “O Come O, Come Emmanuel,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus” are perfect places to start.
- Get physical. God used many physical signs to express His presence to His people. Advent is a time rich with physical signs we can use to bring to life the themes of the season. An Advent wreath or a Jesse Tree combine prayer and Scripture reading and are a physical reminder of the journey of Advent.
So, this year, as you put up your tree, decorate your home, buy your presents, and make your meals, remember that your preparation isn’t simply for the coming of a single day; it’s for the coming of a person, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God asks us to step into a season of waiting and joyful anticipation - not to drive us crazy but to draw us nearer to Him. And, when the day comes to approach the manger and gaze on the face of Love in our newborn King, we’ll be fully aware that we have a Father who provides and always keeps his promises.