Sunday, December 7, 2008


Advent, waiting. Not something I do particularly well, waiting. I don't wait well in lines. I don't wait well in traffic. I don't wait well at checkouts. I don't wait well on my children. I don't wait well for my husband when he's late. I don't wait. But I do like Advent. In fact, I love it.

Some people consider these days the 25 days of Christmas. I consider it the 24 days of Advent and then the twelve days of Christmas followed by Epiphany. I love getting that Advent calendar in the mail from church as much as my son does. I love putting up the tree on December first. I love adding presents a few at a time under the tree until it's full. I love the spirit of giving that is born of a desire to share and give something special to another person. I love putting out the Nativity. I love Christmas music on the radio. I love Christmas concerts on television. I love to read "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" every single year.

Our church doesn't have just one Christmas concert, or even one Christmas pageant. We have an entire Advent Calendar Season. Four Sundays of Advent, the Family Advent Wreath Making Night, a walk on Nativity Pageant, The Festival of Lessons and Carols (music and verse), a Christmas Play that runs for two weeks in the playhouse, other groups use our sanctuary for Christmas concerts, two Christmas Eve services, a Saturday noon service for those who cannot come on Christmas Sunday and a Christmas celebration Sunday. Then we celebrate Epiphany Sunday and start the season of Epiphany that runs until Lent (more or less).

There is so much hype surrounding Christmas Eve and Christmas day, we often forget to celebrate the whole season. The whole season is about waiting on the Lord Jesus to come and bring new light to our world. He comes to bring peace and joy and hope. He comes to bring a new way of life. The celebration of his birthday is important, but it is his coming and the change that comes for us that is worth celebrating. The miraculous story of how he comes. What his coming meant for so many people at that time and today.

The season of waiting is good training for the season of self-denial that comes after it during Lent. There is so much more to Christmas than that one night in the manger. Granted that night is most special and full of wonder and awe and life. But it is the spirit of that night that carries us through the whole year. It is the spirit of waiting for that inspiration that makes Advent so special.

Some lines from our Festivals and Carols readings that I found particularly evocative this year:

"Amazing have interrupted our routines...with your good news...You have gathered this unlikely assortment of folk to become a transforming community of faith." (Duck, Ruth C. Fresh Winds of the Spirit, 1985, The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! How much did God get people out of their rut all those many years ago? He gathered the most unlikely group of people--a young Jewish teenager, an upstanding but poor Jewish carpenter who were traveling because of and eventually running from the Romans, a bunch of disreputable shepherds who were too unclean to even come to the gates of the Temple, and three astrologers from foreign lands who together created a faith story that is still with us today.

"Gracious God...dedicate us to prepare your way by lifting up the valleys in our lives and making smooth the rough places of others." (Duck, Ruth C., Tirabassi, Maren C., Ed. Touch Holiness: Resources for Worship, 1990 The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! Christmas isn't just about me and my waiting. It's about my ability to wait on others. If I hear the true promise of the coming of Jesus, do I not want all of those promises of peace and reconciliation for all people?

"Creator God...may this season inspire us to live in such a way that others will see the Christ in and through us." (Biegert, John E., Pilgrim Prayers for Leading Worship, 2003 The Pilgrim Press.)
Yes! Use me Lord. Let this season of waiting be a season in which I wait on and with others.

"Our heavenly Father, as once again we prepare for Christmas, help us to find time in our busy lives for quiet and thought and prayer." (Colquhoun, Frank. The Book of a Thousand Prayers. Ed. Angela Ashwin. 1996,2002 Zondervan.)
Yes!I, as your hands and feet of the kingdom, need this time to reaffirm your promises. I need this yearly reminder of waiting and wondering to refill my lamp. While I am called to be Martha in this world frequently, help me take time to find the inspiration Mary found in Christ so I will not use it all up at once.

"Eternal God...may your word-made-flesh herald a renewal among us." (not attributed)
Yes! Don't let the Christmas story be the tired, same, old story. God is eternal. This story is eternal. This wonder is eternal. This ultimate salvation and sacrifice that came among us as the least of us, showed us the best in us, and gave us a path to share and give and act and transform the world around us through Him. We use this time of Advent and Christmastide to reflect, renew, and rejoice that God is indeed with us.

So a blessed Advent to you.
Merry Christmas to you.
I hope the New Year holds an Epiphany for you.
In the name of Christ, peace be upon you.

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