Advent Greetings? Merry Advent!? Have you noticed that there is not a really good Advent greeting?
You see, there are plenty of greetings for Christmas, but that is because Christmas is a season of lights, cheer, food, and good things. Advent, on the other hand, is a season of waiting. It is one where we sit and wait for God to act.
I remember, in my youth, there were no Christmas carols in church until Advent was over. Advent was all about waiting, and waiting was no fun at all.
My brother and I would spend agonizing afternoons making sure our Christmas lists were all-inclusive, and then we would try to find where Mom had hid the presents. Advent was a time to let excitement build until the big day, but it was also a time of painful slowness.
I don’t know if you remember how long those 24 days on the Advent calendar seemed, but to me, as a child, I thought they were about half the year! Each day, we would open one door and my eyes would count how many were left. Once there were only 10 left, they seemed to slow down even further. I just wanted to open all the doors, so Christmas could be here right now!
I don’t know if it is my perception or the culture, but it seems that Advent has changed a bit. I have already been invited to three Christmas parties, anbd one of those parties was a party for pastors and families! I don’t want to be a humbug about Advent, and yes, I attend those parties (the ones I could in this busy season), and I do let carols be sung before the 24th, but I wonder if we do not lose something. You see, often, we do not wait for the Lord.
I have sat with people in the midst of life changes, the loss of a loved one, or awaiting surgery. Sometimes, they will ask me, where is God in this? I wish it was a simple answer.
I could just say God wants you to have this surgery, or God caused you to lose that job because otherwise you would not be able to get the next better job. And it may be the case that it is God’s plan, but I don’t know for sure; we have to wait, trust, and see.
What I do get to tell them is that God has not abandoned them, and God has promised to see them through all of life. While we do not know today what God’s plan is, we do know God, and therefore we wait.
I tell them about how God came and lived with us, and he prayed at the Garden of Gethsemane that this cup be taken away from Him. Even then, Christ still declared, “Thy will be done.”
We do not always know God’s plan for us, but we know God and we trust God, so that even in the time of waiting, we are not filled with dread, but with hope. As a kid the season of Advent helped me with that I did not like waiting, but I knew that even when I had to wait, God would appear and see me though. Today, I tell people going through tough times that same thing.
And although it is tough, I hope you use some of this Advent season for spiritual waiting because, “they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 RSV