Our culture is screaming “CHRISTMAS” everywhere right now, isn’t it? Santa Claus seems to be in every-other commercial on TV, gift requests are being exchanged within families, and radio stations have begun their around-the-clock playing of Christmas songs. Christmas is here…however, within the church we have entered into the season of Advent, which is a season of waiting and preparing for Jesus to be born again into the world.
Let’s begin by grabbing a piece of paper and making two columns, one that says “Christmas” and the other “Advent.” Underneath each column write down what comes to mind when you think of each word. What thoughts, feelings and activities do you associate with the two seasons we are experiencing right now – the season of Christmas that is all around us in our culture and the season of Advent that we have entered into as a church?
Underneath your “Christmas” column did you have the movie “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase like me? That movie, and others (“A Christmas Story”), along with Christmas lights, decorations are what I love about the Christmas season. However, my list also included the stress of purchasing gifts, and the overarching busyness and anxiety that can sometimes come with this season. Under “Advent” I included the invitation to slow down, the mystery of the Incarnation, and the Nativity story.
We need the season of Advent as a companion to the season of Christmas that is all around us. We need it not only because we remember the story that it tells, but we need it for health of our spiritual lives. While the Christmas season can be a wonderful time of the year, it can also push us to be busy and sometimes even stressed. The season of Advent invites us to slow down, to be quiet, to receive, and to open our eyes.
Watch this short video from Glennon Doyle Melton where she describe what she loves about Advent.
Glennon says, “My favorite story is the Nativity story because God shows up with us, in a form that we would least expect, which is why everybody misses it.”
On your piece of paper, write down your answer to this question: What part of the Nativity story do you love the most? If you’re a little fuzzy on the details, grab a Bible and read Luke 1:26-2:20. Is it the part about the angel Gabriel’s coming to Mary, the shepherds in the field, or Mary and Joseph’s journey to Nazareth?
Pause for a moment and ask yourself…what do you love most about this story, and why?
Glennon says that “Advent is about God showing up to us in a form we would least expect, which is why we miss it.” One of the great gifts of Advent is that it invites us to trust in a God who comes to us…AND comes to us in the most unexpected of places.
This season of Advent invites us to slow down, which is incredibly hard to do when everything else is telling us to go go go. But when we do take some intentional time to slow down, we can ponder the mystery of this story and open our eyes and look for the God who has promised to “be with us.” The promise of this season is that Jesus came to us in the form of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago, but it wasn’t just a one-time event. God keeps coming into our lives every day, and Advent is about opening our eyes to look for God in the expected and unexpected places of our lives. As Glennon said, “we simply need eyes that are open, and looking.”
Spiritual Practice for This Month:
Throughout Advent take 5 minutes, either at the end of your day or in the morning before your day gets started, and look back upon the previous day. Where did you notice God that day? Was it in something or someone where you expected to see God? Or was it in something unexpected?
The promise of this practice is that if we are open to asking this question, and to begin opening our eyes in a new way, we will slowly start to notice the God who keeps coming into our lives, every day, in the expected…and also in the unexpected.
Grace and Peace to you this Advent season.