Practicing Advent

practicing adventThe hustle and bustle of the holiday season has begun. We are planning, shopping, cleaning, and wrapping. Christmas is almost here. The same can be said for the church. We just put up the Christmas trees at Westbrook. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but it’s not Christmas yet. We’re in a season of waiting.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent. You’re probably familiar with the term because of Advent Calendars that mark off the days of December leading up to Christmas. Advent is, in fact, an official season in the church calendar that begins 4 Sunday before Christmas and ends with Christmas Eve. It’s a time set aside to wait on the coming of Jesus and prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas. We remember how Israel waited for the Messiah and recognize that we are waiting for Jesus to come and restore all things.

It’s a time of waiting and expectation, and let’s be honest, most of us are bad at waiting. 

Instead, we typically practice busyness. There are parties to be planned, recipes to be researched and prepared, gifts to be bought and wrapped, and travel plans to be hashed out. That doesn’t even include what you have to do at work, school, or at church either. It’s easy to spend this season busy and treat Christmas as the moment when all of your plans come to fruition. It becomes finish line to be crossed and when you cross it, you are seriously ready to be done with it all. The tree is packed up before New Years and the lights are only left up if you live in a cold climate.

At other times, we practice idleness. We watch Christmas movie after Christmas movie or binge every episode of the Holiday Baking Championship to let the time pass. It’s certainly relaxing but it’s more like checking out than anything else. We distract ourselves until Christmas comes, excitedly celebrate for a day or so, and then return to our marathon of entertainment.

What I’m beginning to realize is that in times of waiting, we need to practice being in the present moment.

Advent teaches us that because of what happened in the past, we are to live in the present while keeping the future in mind. We know that Jesus has come and Jesus is coming again, and we are called to live faithfully between those two events. We live our lives while expecting Jesus to return. This is the waiting to which Advent calls us. We’re not simply passing time in idleness or keeping busy, but we are to be faithful in the meantime.

The hard part is living and waiting without going crazy. Waiting can make us anxious and restless. But I believe there’s something about advent that calls us to sit with our discomfort. Jesus came, but the world is still hurting and broken. We sing about the hope, joy, and peace that Jesus’ arrival brought us, but we know things aren’t fixed yet. Advent brings us face to face with a world still in need of Jesus’s return and also calls us to do something about it while we wait. It’s practicing faithfulness in the meantime. It’s living the Christlike life in the present knowing it’s going to get better in the future.

This advent, don’t tune out what’s happening in the world around you. It’s easy for us to make ourselves busy or turn on the sappy movies in order to not feel the brokenness still left in the world. I encourage you to feel it. Watch the news and see the brokenness. Sit in the discomfort for a minute. Put down your phone, take a break from the busyness, and turn off the holiday movies and be present to what’s happening around you. Remind yourself that Jesus came to save the world, but also is coming again to fix it for good and he’s calling you to participate. Advent reminds us that the world needs the faithful presence of Christians to continue bringing the life of Christ into the world.

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