This Sunday begins the season of Advent. Advent is the four Sundays prior to Christmas that prepare our hearts to celebrate the birth of our King! Advent comes from the Latin word Adventus which means arrival, it’s about anticipating the arrival, the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but at the same time anticipating Jesus’ second coming, when all things will be set right.
The season of Advent is one of my favorite times of the year, not simply because it’s the precursor to Christmas but because of the emphasis of waiting in Advent. If there is one thing that we as a people need to universally work on, it’s waiting!
I think of the famous lyrics by Tom Petty in the song “The Waiting”. He sings out:
“The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part”
Waiting is hard! Waiting is a period of inactivity, it’s sitting idle, not being in control, waiting on something to happen. I think of the image of driving on the tollway in the standstill of traffic. Everyone is in the same situation, waiting to move, but in our minds we begin to think we can navigate a way around it. We see the lane next to us move so we pull over to that one, then that other lane is moving, so we try to merge back. We don’t want to wait!
Advent is all about waiting. It’s this mindset of waiting on God’s presence. Through Advent we light candles each week because we are marking the time, counting the days till God’s presence is with us. It’s this way of training our hearts, teaching our lives, that we aren’t the ones in control, we need to wait on God’s presence to lead us!
This year as you celebrate Advent, I encourage you to make intentional periods in your life to wait on God! Here are some suggestions of how to cultivate a deeper reliance on God through Advent.
1. Attention- Set Aside Distractions
We live in a distracted age, we are continuously trying to numb our boredom through busyness and entertainment. These distractions take our eyes away from God and on our attempt at control. So through the season of Advent, give up some distractions.
My friend Paco shared this Chicago Tribune article about a woman (Mary Schmich) who accidentally left her phone at home while traveling, so for 3 days she was without her phone. She wrote,
“For three days, I lived with no calls, no texts, no up-to-the-minute updates on what atrocity or nonsense was rocking the world.
The world would have to wait, and it did. I felt calmer.”
That is the point of Advent getting rid of distractions and opening our lives up to waiting on God. When we stop living on demand for the world around us we train our lives to wait on God. So this Advent our family is doing away with phones once we enter the house at night. When we arrive at home after a day of production, we are placing our phones at rest in a box. We are training our lives to be more reliant on God and less on demand of our control and of the world around us.
Maybe phones aren’t a biggie for you but whatever you use for distraction, Netflix, Sports, Movies, or even reading, give it up to form some more time of waiting on God.
2. Family Faith- Establish Devotion
The Christmas season is a time of family traditions- putting up Christmas decorations, baking Christmas desserts, buying gifts, and going through all our rituals. These traditions are usually based in a good ideal, we want to celebrate ‘the most wonderful time of the year.’ But often these traditions can be founded in commercialism and consumption.
This year we are starting a new family tradition, lighting the Advent candle as a family, talking about the weekly theme. Advent is broken down in 4 weekly themes, Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. This year I purchased a small set of Advent candles to put in our kitchen (the main area of our house). Each beginning of the week we are going to have one of our kids light the candle, we will read a passage corresponding with the theme, and then each night at the dinner table we will go around sharing how God has been our hope (week 2-peace, week 3-joy, week 4-love) throughout that day.
This is a small effort but if you don’t establish these times of devotion you will miss out on the intentionality of Advent. There are other options, books of devotion, like Ann Voskamps “The Wonder of the Greatest Gift” or other family centered devotions. Take advantage of this season by starting family traditions of waiting on God.
3. Intentional Prayers- Stop and Seek God
The last suggestion I have during this season is to open up your life to waiting on God by setting aside intentional prayer times. To wait on God is to take time to stop and seek God, we do this through prayer. Establish two times a day where you will take time to pray. I like guided prayers so I will be using the Book of Common Prayer’s weekly prayer to help me but figure out what works for you and do it!
Advent is a season of waiting because when the arrival comes the celebration won’t stop! Take this season to cultivate a life of waiting on God’s presence and see how he appears!