Advent is perhaps one of the most challenging times of our liturgical year. It calls us to wait, to resist celebrating Christmas strait through from Thanksgiving through December. Although Christmas music may play and Christmas decorations may be found in the stores as early as October, Advent reminds us to wait, to ponder, to prepare. It is a sacred time. But it is also challenging. It is tempting to skip the uncomfortable waiting time, to go straight to the joy and delight of Christmas. It is confusing to understand this Advent time when we are supposed to prepare ourselves and to wait for a birth that has already happened. But as Magrey R. deVega writes in Awaiting the Already, “Advent is not a time of pretending that Jesus has never been born; it is a time of preparing for what that birth might mean for us today. It is not a denial, but a darkroom: a chance to allow the fullness of God’s love to develop in our lives and to be revealed in glorious Technicolor.”
So how do we sit in this space of waiting, when the world around us is ready to jump to Christmas? Author and blogger Rachel Held Evans has a few suggestions on how you can live into the Advent season:
5 Questions to Ask Yourself
- Why do I need a savior? Which areas of darkness are in need of light?
2. Why does the world need a savior? Which places of darkness are in need of light?
3. Which areas of my life require patience, waiting, and anticipation…and what can Advent teach me about perseverance in those areas?
4. How can I prepare myself, my home, and my family for the arrival of Jesus?
5. How can I create little pockets of peace during the busy holiday season?
3 Traditions to Start:
1. Jesse Tree—In addition to your regular Christmas tree, use a tiny, desk-sized tree as a Jesse Tree. Homemade ornaments representing various biblical figures and events in the redemption story are placed on the tree during the month—one each day. (You might want to add ornaments representing Ruth, Tamar, Bathsheba, Rahab, and Mary—the five women listed in Jesus’ genealogy.)
2. Advent Calendar—This is a good way to add some suspense building up to Christmas day.
3. Empty manger—Consider setting up your manger scene early in the month, but without the baby Jesus figurine. Wait to add Jesus on Christmas day. It’s as if the rest of the figurines are waiting in anticipation—just like you and your family!
May this Advent be a season filled with waiting and expectation. May it be a time of thoughtful and careful preparation so that this Christmas you see, feel, and know the Light that shines in the darkness.