Photo courtesy of LiturgyTools.net
The Christmas season comes around every year and for many of us it’s kind of the same-old-same-old. Yes, the specialness of the season are the traditions of it and doing the same things every year. We put up the same tree and decorations, listen to the same Christmas music, have the same family mealtimes, attend the various end of year gatherings and church services and so on.
The busyness of it and the stress of battling through all the shopping crowds, the cooking of all the food and keeping the house clean can serve to distract us. We consciously decide to stay positive and not allow the stress to affect us or the awkward family moments we often experience.
And before we know it, it’s over for another year. We collapse on our lounges having eaten too much and exhausted from the intensity of our family gatherings. For an introvert like myself I’m hankering to get back into my cave to recharge.
Advent can simply be another tradition. We light the candles at the appropriate times, pick up an Advent-dedicated devotional and even perhaps follow the alternate lectionaries of Bible readings. Like any ‘practice’ we can simply go through the motions. I know I’m regularly guilty of doing exactly that.
I especially love Advent. However, I need to be very intentional to ensure it’s simply not another tradition that I ‘do’ because it makes me feel good. I don’t want to simply go through the motions.
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting for an “arrival” (which is what the word, Advent means) of the Messiah. Waiting generally is uncomfortable, isn’t it? It’s uncomfortable because it means we’re not in control. I was only sitting on a plane today thinking we were about to take off when we’re advised that three passengers hadn’t checked in. Arggh. I just want to get home. So we wait. Fifteen minutes pass (which feels like an hour) and two of the three sheepishly head down the aisle sensing the boring eyes of every passenger they pass. We wait some more. Until finally a decision is made to go without the remaining one. I wonder how many of us spared a thought for the passenger left behind or in our hearts were simply glad to be on our way?
The Israelites were used to waiting. What 400 years before the arrival of Jesus? We SUMites are used to waiting too, aren’t’ we? Waiting for the many prayed prayers for the salvation of our dearly loved spouses to be answered. We should be experts at it, shouldn’t we?
We can choose to walk through Advent with hopeful expectation. Maybe Christmas will be difficult for whatever reason which makes us apprehensive. But we can keep our minds and hearts on the good news of Jesus. He is the liberator, the lover of our souls and we can choose to use these days to intentionally go deeper with Him.
“In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[it.” (John 1:4-5 NIV)
Jesus is the light. And as these verses tell us He shines in the darkness. May I encourage you to take a few moments today or tomorrow or the next day to identify the places in your life where you might be struggling to find God. Where are the places of darkness? These can be scary places because we worry that Jesus won’t show up. So here’s what we’ll do:
- Once you’ve identified a dark place, invite Jesus into it. Picture Him walking into the room, holding your hand. Every time you sense darkness, invite Jesus to come into. Our friend, Martha, actually spends each morning siting in the dark communing with God awaiting the light of the morning sunrise. It’s a wonderful practice to mirror this exercise.
- Be assured that He is with you. Be assured that He hears all of our prayers, all those prayers we’ve prayed for the salvation of our spouses and loved ones. Encourage yourself with the words of Psalm 56:8 –
“You keep track of all my sorrows.
You have collected all my tears in your bottle.
You have recorded each one in your book.”
Spending moments of stillness where it’s just you and God are particularly special in this season. I’ve recently started using an App that Ransomed Heart have released. It’s simply called “One Minute Pause”. Go check it out – it’s free. Here’s the link to the Apple version but there is also an Android one, just search for it in the Android app store: - https://apps.apple.com/app/id1471913620
Come, let us adore Him, Jesus that is, this season. Let’s be intentional with hope in our hearts. Blessing, dear friends. I’ll be checking in midway during the month with a second post on Advent.
Perhaps in the meantime let’s share with each other what we’re hoping for this Christmas. I’m hoping for complete healing for my brother, John, who is walking through a stem cell transplant to keep lymphoma at bay. Unfortunately, he will be spending Christmas in a hospital isolation ward.