– a reflection by Rev. John Wilson, from our weekly email blast –
The church year begins with Advent, which comprises the four Sundays before Christmas. It’s the time to “let every heart prepare Him room” that Christ may “be born in us” anew.
One of the ways we prepare our homes is by decorating them. Putting candle lights in the window, for example, is a sign of welcome that is meant to light the way for Christ to come into our homes and live with us.
And one of the ways we prepare our hearts is through worship. This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. One of our traditions is the lighting of the Advent Wreath each week. This week we will light the candle of Hope.
Advent is a time of expectant waiting – as we prepare ourselves for the birth of Christ. But it’s been pointed out that we Americans aren’t very good at waiting. Most people consider waiting to be a huge waste of time. We’re doers who want action now, not folks who wait around for something to happen.
As John Buchanan has observed, patience is not one of our stronger characteristics. A flight delay at the airport, an unanticipated traffic jam, or a doctor’s appointment that leaves us too long in the waiting room can become an emotional and physicial crisis, bringing with it stress, a racing heart and elevated blood pressure.
The culture we live in celebrates action, praises results, and expects instant gratification. Relentless and highly sophisticated advertising convinces us that we deserve to have whatever we want now. And we buy into the concept.
Yet waiting is a major Biblical theme. “I wait for the Lord all day long” the psalmist wrote. And there’s the promise from Isaiah, “Those who wait for the Lord will renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Christian waiting is never passive. Jesus told His followers, “Watch. Stand up. Stay awake. Be alert.” Christians trust that something is coming that is not yet fully here: things like redemption, fulfillment, wholeness, peace, and the world as God intends it to be. In Advent we anticipate the time when those promises will become reality here on earth.
That’s why we do serious waiting during Advent. Yes, Advent waiting is patient and unhurried, but it is also an active living into the promised future. Advent waiting is gently but steadily working for the rule of God here and now. It’s waiting for the birth of a child, and working for the future that that child promised and lived and taught. So may our Advent waiting be!
Here’s a thought from Steelehouse Media Group:
“For many, Christmas is ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ But for some it’s the most difficult. People wresting with pain, hardship and loss. At Christmas those struggles are magnified. What better time to invite someone to church?
“For many, Christmas is a season of family, friends and homecomings. For some it’s a reminder of what’s missing, absent or broken with family, personally or in community. They are ready to hear a story that changes everything. The birth of hope, joy and peace. The arrival of love, forgiveness and reconciliation.
“So this Christmas, in a season of new beginnings, invite someone to church.”
Along that same thought: The Service for Healing on December 9th at 2:00 PM will have as its focus this month those who find the holidays difficult.
There’s a line in the carol, “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” that goes like this: “And ye, beneath life’s crushing load whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow, look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing; O rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing!”
Worship in general, and the Service for Healing in particular, are times when those who are struggling long and hard in an up-hill battle are invited to “rest beside the weary road, and hear the angels sing.”
Ah, to hear the angels sing! I am extremely grateful to those “Christmas angels” who join our church choir and add their voices for the Christmas season. Christmas is a time for singing God’s praise: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and singing Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
May this Advent season be a special and blessed time for you this year.
~ Rev. Dr. John Wilson