Tis the season . . .
As we begin the advent season the world around us seems determined to make us think about everything but the coming of Jesus. Determined to distract us from the waiting, the anticipation, the joy, the peace and the salvation that His arrival means for the world.
Whether it’s black Friday, cyber-Monday, the parties, the kid’s concerts, parades and pageants, the decorations, the family gatherings . . . there is so much to do, so much celebration that it can be easy, almost impossible not to miss the purpose of the season itself. Although much of the activities exist to remind us of what we are anticipating – the birth of Jesus – much seems designed to be sure we have not a moment to think, ponder or even momentarily consider the truth of the advent season.
So how do we ensure that we don’t miss it? That on December 26th we are not standing amidst a pile of wrapping paper and empty boxes realizing the month passed by and we don’t know how, but we totally missed it all. We missed the chance of joyful anticipation, of heartfelt adoration, of communal expectation in favor of frenzy, spending and the business of Christmas.
On the day after I want to feel and know that this advent season I had a watchful understanding of my blessings, prayerful moments considering the needs of the world and asking – come though long expected Jesus, peaceful time spent with my savior, a season learning to be generous with what really matters. More than what I hope this advent season will be is what I hope it will not be. I hope it will not be driven by a need to fill every moment with holiday activities. I hope it will not be a season of giving things and mounting debt. I hope it will not be a time of isolation for those whose Christmas memories are filled with pain and loneliness. I hope it will not be a time to return to bad habits.
How to reach this advent nirvana? I don’t think there is one answer. At least not one list we can check off that will get us all to the peace-filled, joyful advent season many of us crave. But I do think that there is something we can do to help get us there.
With our No’s.
No, I cannot buy an expensive gift for every person on my list. Or maybe I cannot but a gift for everyone at all. We have come to accept the consumerism that has been attached to Christmas but what if we didn’t? Gifts are a wonderful way to express caring, love and appreciation, but they are not the only way.
No, I cannot attend every event I am invited to – this is okay and really our friends and family will understand – we need to build in margin. This is a good principle in life, but is especially important in the advent season which can get overly busy and rob us of our time to step back and contemplate what we are really celebrating and anticipating.
No . . . find your own no! What is it you need to say no this advent to make room for the peaceful, joyful season God would have for you?
With our yes’s.
Yes I will spend time with God – for prayer, reflection and worship. Also it could be great to get a good advent devotional. I highly recommend the Advent Conspiracy. It is a great small group study or can be done on your own. For families there are so many available that have activities as well as readings to keep the little ones interested. This year my family and I are doing Ann Voskamp’s The Wonder of the Greatest Gift.
Yes, I will take time to pause. This is sort of the inverse of the no’s but say yes to empty space on your calendar. It is so important to have time to be still, to be quiet, to listen. Say yes to that.
Yes . . .what do you need to say yes to? What is something you need to say yes to this advent season? Maybe it is spending time with a relative you rarely see. Maybe it is serving somewhere that needs your skills and abilities or just your time. Prayerfully consider what you need to say yes to.
My hope and prayer for all of us this advent season is that we would see, hear and know God more clearly as a result of our practices this month and that in the year to come our hearts would break for what breaks His, our eyes would see others as He does and our lives would be forever changed as a result.