My mom used to have a rule, I guess she still does, that if we saw our gift before Christmas morning she wouldn’t give it to us. We had to wait for that snowy morning to open the gift she got us. Mom understood that there is joy in the waiting.
Late on Christmas Eve when we got home from celebrating with our Dad my sister and I would be shepherded past the Christmas tree with a mass of gifts under its boughs and up to our bedrooms to sleep. We’d lay in our beds listening to the stomping, scampering feet of Father Christmas as the last of the Christmas preparations were made. The next morning we’d wake up before the world and be amazed at the plethora of gifts under the once lonely tree and sit there at the top of the stairs looking on longingly at the gifts we had so patiently waited to open, wondering what goodies “Santa” brought us.
The liturgical year, the church calendar is split between “Ordinary Time” and the season between Advent and Eastertide which includes holidays like the 12 Days of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost Sunday, Trinity Sunday, and Feast of the Transfiguration. This past Sunday kicked off Advent which is the four weeks leading up to Christmas.
Perhaps you remember when you were a child when you got a cheap trinket toy or stale piece of candy once a day leading up to Christmas in preparation for when you’d bring in the good haul?
I didn’t grow up celebrating Advent and it has only been in the past few years that the liturgical year has gained any sort of spiritual significance to me personally. For most of my life the year started shortly after my birthday in August when I’d put on my First Day of School Outfit with my First Day of School Haircut and head off to classes I wouldn’t pay attention to. That year was organized into certain seasons: School is Exciting; Winter Break; Always Winter Never Christmas; Spring Break; OH NO! I’m Going to Fail Math!; Summer Break; culminating with My Birthday.
Leading up to the First Day of School I’d be an anxious so-and-so waiting for the new year to begin. I’d begin thinking thoughts like, “This’ll be the year I do well in math” or, “This’ll be the year I become an athlete.” My every thought geared towards the unexplored potential of a new school year.
Advent is the beginning of a new year for the church. This new year beginning with the end in the mind and the haunting French melody of O Come, O Come Emmanuel ringing in the air. As those of old anticipated the coming of a savior who would set his people free, we wait for the second coming of the Savior who will once and for all wreck the bondages of sin and death.
Advent is a time of anxious waiting. Like children preparing for a new school year where they’ll make new friends and learn new skills the Christian, during the season of Advent, prepares for a new season where God will do wonderous things. Unlike my eagerly anticipated but unsatisfied athletic or mathmateical excellence the Christian during Advent waits for that final season when God will satisfy His excellent work in Christ Jesus and set everything right, wiping every tear from our eyes.
During Advent we wait. We wait with hope because this world is in desperate and ever increasing need. We hope and wait for the time when wars will cease, when the lion will lay with the lamb, when our swords and guns will be beaten into plougshares, when there will be no more sorrow, sadness, death, or decay.
This year instead of rushing towards Christmas let’s slow down and wait. Let’s patiently consider, and long for, and pray towards that final season when “all sad things will come untrue” like a wise hobbit once asked of an old wizard.
Because there is joy in the waiting, knowing that underneath the tree are good gifts from a loving parent. These four weeks before Christmas we sit at the top of the stairs of history waiting for that final blessed morning when all good gifts will be given.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes.There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”