Advent: Joyful Anticipation
Waiting. It is so difficult. We wait in line, wait for a table at our favorite restaurant,we wait at traffic lights, we wait for our order at the drive thru window. When we are young we wait to get older, when we are traveling we wait to arrive and, now, we are waiting for Covid-19 to become a footnote in history. Waiting. If only we could all learn to appreciate the act of waiting.
Imagine waiting for millennia to receive a promised deliverer. God's chosen people did exactly that. Since the beginning of the recorded history of the children of Israel these Apples of God's eye waited. They waited through generation after generation for the salvation that had been promised by God and prophesied by great priests and prophets. The people waited during times of plenty and want, joy and sorrow. They waited.
It is this time of waiting that we are celebrating during the first season of the liturgical year. This season is called Advent which means "coming". Christians for hundreds of years have used the four Sundays before Christmas as a time to prepare their hearts to celebrate the birth of Jesus. This year, 2020, the first Sunday of Advent is November 29. On this Sunday the altar cloths at our church, which have been green all summer, are changed to a beautiful royal blue. The advent wreath is in the worship space with the purple, pink and white candles placed around it. And then we wait.
What if we who eagerly await the birth of the Christ child decided to look at waiting a little differently this year? Suppose we decided that rather than wait for Christmas, we will anticipate Christmas? Why don't we stand together in a spirit of expectancy? Maybe even joyful expectancy? Perhaps just a small change in perspective can help us to make holy use of these four Sundays. In anticipation of the birth of our Lord, we can enjoy a few simple traditions to renew our joy and experience the season of Christmas anew with your children.
My favorite of these traditions is having an Advent wreath in our home. If you are not familiar with an Advent wreath, it is a ring of greenery, fresh or artificial, that is, in my home, about twelve inches in diameter. The wreath is place on a plate in a prominent place and four candles are placed evenly among the greenery. Three of these candles are purple and one is pink. On each of the four Sundays of Advent a candle is lighted and a different aspect of Advent is emphasized. Each Sunday the light from the wreath is a little brighter as first one candle shines, the next week there are two and so on until Christmas Eve when an extra candle, a white one, is placed in the center and lighted as we celebrate that Jesus has come to be the light of the world.
Another lovely tradition for your home is an Advent calendar. These are typically beautifully decorated paper calendars that have little doors with the numbers 1-24 printed on them. Your child opens one door every day beginning on December first and inside the door is a verse of scripture, a picture or, in some very elaborate versions, a piece of candy. On Christmas Eve, the final door is opened and the waiting is over. Christmas has arrived.
This year, as we are all more focused on our homes that perhaps we ever have been before, remember that home is where our faith is truly worked out and learned. It is at home that our children can be drawn into the deep faith that brings joy and strength to stand strong through the storms that are inevitable as we live out our lives. Take advantage of this season of waiting, and turn it into a season of joyful anticipation. Take on new traditions that bring you and your family closer to the truth that Jesus Christ has come to His people and that He is also waiting. He is waiting to be invited in to your heart and your home. Enjoy the expectancy that is Advent.