December is here, which means Advent is upon us and Christmas is right around the corner. Notice how I phrased that – Advent is here, and Christmas is not here yet. Every year I need this reminder, don’t you? It seems like our culture pushes Christmas on us earlier and earlier, from We Wish You A Merry Christmas playing on the radio to Santa Claus showing up over Thanksgiving dinner. Call me a Scrooge, but I’m not ready yet. I don’t think we’re ready yet. I think the church knows what it’s doing when it sets aside four whole weeks to watch and wait for the coming of Baby Jesus in the manger at Bethlehem.
This is certainly what the Bible encourages us to do – to watch and wait for the coming of the Lord. Indeed, the whole Old Testament can be read as a prologue to Jesus, setting the stage for Israel’s Messiah. Even the New Testament doesn’t begin with Jesus’ birth, but with expectation. Luke’s Gospel, which I’ll be preaching through all winter, starts with angel visits and John the Baptist and Mary and Joseph. The point is, Christmas is not here yet. We have to wait.
I think this is what Henri Nouwen had in mind when he wrote those words: “Life is Advent. Life is recognizing the coming of the Lord.” Nouwen knew that to be a Christian is to wait upon the Lord. The Lord doesn’t wait on us; we wait on him, watching for his hand at work, listening for his still, small voice with patient yet eager expectation. I wait for the Lord, Psalm 130 tells us. My soul waits, and in his Word do I put my hope.
I wonder: How do you wait for the coming of the Lord? With eagerness? Giddy anticipation? Impatience? Indifference? Waiting is hard, isn’t it? It’s one of the hardest things we must do, at any point in life. Whether you’re a child on Christmas Eve or an adult at the DMV, we all find ourselves chomping at the bit for what’s next. Why is that? I tend to think it’s because when we wait, we are not in control – and lack of control is a scary thing. Waiting forces us to be on someone else’s timetable, in someone else’s care, under someone else’s watch.
This Advent, as we count down the days to the birthday of our Savior, and as we look forward to his coming again, I invite you to wait. As you do, trust that waiting time is not wasted time. For in the midst of waiting, we prepare. We prepare our homes through decorations, food, candles, and calendars; and we prepare our hearts through prayer, contemplation, worship, and fellowship. We wait and prepare, so that when the Lord Jesus arrives on Christmas, in his humility and in his glory, we will be ready.
Yours in Advent hope,