Over the past few years we have been learning the wisdom of the Christian calendar. We all know about Christmas and Easter, the twin pillars of the Jesus story, but we are also discovering the power of Lent and Advent, the seasons of preparation which precede these special days. Advent begins this Sunday, December 1, but tonight (Wednesday, Nov 27) we continue a tradition we began last year, something we call Advent Wednesday. We will begin at 6:40 pm and dismiss by 7:20 pm. In only 40 minutes we want to help you and your family learn a way to invest more meaning in this season.
Advent is the gift of a season. It is more than a day or a week — it is a month of reflection on what it means to wait for God.
Advent teaches us the reality of our waiting. We are reminded of the long wait of history that existed before Christ came, and we are reminded that while Christ has now come (advent means coming), we still await the full resolution of our hope, the completion of all he has promised to us. In celebrating his “first advent”, we still await his “second advent”. Yes, our hope has in one sense come to us in Jesus. But everything is yet to be fully resolved. There is still incompletion, there is still longing, there is still more to come. Advent takes seriously this dual nature of the story of Jesus, as promise-fulfilled and promise-yet-to-come.
And secondly, we learn how to wait. So how should we wait? With patience. Christmas will surely come, so we move forward, day by day, marking each Sunday with the lighting of another candle, seeing the progression of time and the nearing of the day we wait for. Neither our anxiety nor our excitement really changes things (though it is better to be excited than anxious). But we learn the wisdom of patient endurance.
When our first child Marnie was about to be born, I was the picture of a typical expectant father. I remember calling Susan several times a day from wherever I was, wondering how she was feeling, whether or not there were any signs that Marnie had finally decided to make her appearance. I was convinced she was arriving early, in advance of the date the doctor gave. Then the due date came, passed, and more days followed. My expectations was being altered. Sometimes, I had to admit, I wondered whether she would be born at all. But that wasn’t possible: she had to be born, and with each passing day, Marnie’s birth into the world grew inevitably nearer. While I had to adjust my expectations, my hope would be rewarded. But I had to wait patiently.
When I think of this, I think of the words of Paul: “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). It is this wisdom of patient waiting that I want to reminded of as I journey towards this Christmas.
I have prepared a simple Advent Guide which can help you move through this season with your family. It will be available tonight at Advent Wednesday and more copies will be available for pick up on Sunday. Here are the simple instructions which begin the guide:
Find five candles for your dinner table. On each Sunday of December take a moment to reflect on the meaning of what God has done for us in Jesus (as helped along by the guide). Light the first candle on the first Sunday during the moment of your reflection. On the second Sunday light the first and second candles together, and so on. Move through Advent in this way — reflectively, prayerfully — marking the moments of your journey until Christmas comes.
My prayer is that you would discover a richer meaning to the Christmas story, and perhaps teach yourself and your children a new way of experiencing this season. You have to wait for Christmas anyway — so why not make the waiting a teacher about what we wait for most — the full resolution of what God has promised us in Jesus.
Come to us Prince of Peace, and bring this tired world to its promised destiny.