Full disclaimer right up front: I’m not a fan of Christmas. I don’t really like holidays much at all. There’s plenty of opportunity for discussion about that some other time, but suffice it to say that I only own two Christmas shirts. One has Jack Skellington on it, from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and one bears the sneering image of the Grinch. That one was a Christmas present from my wife. I wear it year round as a warning to those around me.
But the idea of Advent has intrigued me more and more in recent years. It’s not so much a product of the season as it is those main ideas of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love all packaged together under the umbrella of Waiting. See, those themes are ones that I either embrace wholeheartedly as part of my DNA or something I desperately struggle with. These, then, are important.
I tend to be fairly good at waiting for things. I’m patient and laid back. I don’t tend to get frustrated when things don’t happen immediately within my time frame and rarely take matters into my own hand and force things to happen. For many of you like this, it’s merely a personality trait. For many others, your personality is one that says “do, don’t wait”. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just different. We can all learn from each other.
But one area in which I believe we all fail at understanding what it means to truly wait is when it comes to the return of our King, Jesus Christ. Here, we tend to take up two different approaches.
Most of us put the idea of heaven, eternal life, and the return of Jesus on the backburner. It’s not really completely out of mind. I mean, who doesn’t at least like the concept of heaven. But at the same time, why bother talking about it all that much? We don’t really know what it’s like, and when it happens, it’ll happen, right? So we decide to just go about our life here on earth, making the most of the time we have here- content that there’s a heaven and we’re going (we think). As a result, there’s not much waiting going on.
Others of us have maybe been through some rough patches. Because of the darkness and misery in this life, the return of Christ is much more in view for us, but our fixation on it can sometimes completely stymie our desire to actually do anything while we wait. Our prayers are much more “Jesus, take me now” than they are “Come quickly, Lord”. And in doing so, we completely miss the opportunity to fully enjoy the blessings we’re given in this life because we just… don’t see it.
I think that the waiting of Advent sits firmly elsewhere. Not quite in the middle. But in a delicate balancing act of waiting with eager expectation while still knowing there are things to do and enjoy. And I believe our inability to wait properly is absolutely tied to our inability to truly have Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love.
And so, I decided this year to set out on a journey. I am going to try writing a few thoughts down about each week of Advent. In some ways, I hope to enlighten, encourage, and instruct you, the reader. But in many other ways, I hope it may soften my own heart to receive with joy and gladness the reminders of the coming of Christ and the hope of his return. With that said, stay tuned!
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you;
your name and renown are the desire of our hearts. – Isaiah 26.8