Advent is the four-week season that leads into Christmas; the moment before The Moment. Advent is an invitation to consider words like anticipation, expectation, hope, and waiting. What are you hoping for? What are you waiting for? What are you counting down to? During Advent we’re invited to fix our hearts and hopes on Jesus. We’re invited to join with Joseph, Mary, Simeon, the Wise Men of the East, the shepherds of the field, the people of Israel, in their waiting for the Messiah, for the birth of Jesus 2,000 years ago. We’re invited to consider our own need of Jesus today, to allow an excited anticipation to stir in our hearts as we trust Jesus to show up in our lives in different ways. And, of course, we’re invited to put our trust in Jesus as we consider a world that desperately needs Jesus to come again, to bring peace on earth, and God’s good will here as in heaven.
Advent starts on the 3rd of December, only a couple of weeks away, so here are some tips to help you to engage in the season as Advent as we prepare and countdown to our celebration of the coming of Christ at Christmas.
1: Get your hands on an Advent Devotional of some sort. If you Google “Advent Devotional” plenty of options will come up. This year I’m using Walter Brueggemann’s Celebrating Abundance. The Bruegg-Master is always top shelf and was only $3 on Kindle. There are plenty of other great options as well, see… Bonhoeffer and Annie Dillard, N.T. Wright, Richard Rhor, Spurgeon, Tozer etc. There is even one by Heidi Haverkamp called Advent in Narnia.
2: During Advent, when you find yourself waiting – for an appointment, in traffic, for the kid's sports practice to finish, for your turn at the supermarket check-out – don’t let it be a moment of stress and impatience; let it be a moment of peace. Celebrate the waiting. Celebrate that things are out of your control. Celebrate that the world doesn’t run according to your time-frames. Celebrate that life is a gift to be savoured not a “to-do-list” that must be completed as quickly as possible. Remember that whatever you are hoping to get to next, isn’t as important as what you think. What is important is peace on earth. Choose the peace of God in that moment, and remember we’re counting down to the one who declares “peace on earth, and goodwill to all.”
3: Read one book from C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, let their magic remind you that all of this is pretty “magical,” the gift of a loving God.
4: Head to your local shopping mall and park yourself somewhere where you can sit and watch and take it all in. Revel in the hustle and the bustle, the decorations, the lights and the people out and about buying gifts for one another. Don’t let the consumerism of Christmas (which is nasty) distract you from the fact that there is something in the air. Even secular people see Christmas as something “other” than ordinary time. Smile when you see people obviously enjoying themselves, humming away to the Christmas tunes. Pray for those that look stressed, anxious, argumentative, consumed by consumerism and what has disintegrated into a silly season. (In regard to consumerism you could watch What Would Jesus Buy?)
5: Watch a Christmas movie, with your spouse, with your kids, in your flat. Maybe pick one you loved as a child. One that makes you laugh or one that makes you cry. Life goes quick, so pause and enjoy the moment together.
6: Buy something to either eat or drink that is a genuine treat, something “other” than what you’d normally buy, something even a bit extravagant. And then share it with someone, with strangers or friends. Let it be a delight, a reminder that we are blessed and that God is good. Let it be a sacramental nod to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb; that we’re waiting for Jesus and for a time where we no longer fast but will feast with all being healed and restored.
7: Simultaneously, ask how you could simplify Christmas. What could you do this year to take some of the stress out of Christmas? What do you need to say “no” to? What pressure to conform do you need to resist? Advent is a chance to intentionally prepare for Christmas and you need not get caught up in the rat-race of the world’s corruption of a festive season into a silly season.
8: Appreciate that others are not as fortunate as you. Look beyond your family this Christmas, how could you bless someone in need?
9: Instead of a Christmas wish list of gifts and toys you’re longing for, hopefully you’ve moved beyond that, take a moment to make a list of spaces and places in your life, in your family, in your work, in your church, where you need the love and light of Christ to shine. Let this be a prayer list for Christmas and bring this before God. An invitation for Jesus to turn up.
10: Throughout the entire season of Advent, as we count down to Christmas and the coming of Christ, remind yourself again and again, that nothing will truly bring the satisfaction, the fulfillment, the peace, the wholeness, the hope that we all long for in different ways; other than Jesus. That new phone, winning lotto, getting into that new relationship or out of that old relationship may feel life-giving for a moment, but you’ll soon find yourself feeling empty again. Jesus is the reason for the season, and honestly, the only thing that brings fullness of life.
Grace and peace all.