The Christmas season brings a heightened feeling that something wonderful is coming. Can you sense it?
Like a faint sound in the distance drawing nearer. Like the waiting at the airport to be reunited with loved ones as they emerge from the terminal. Like the moment right before the sun peeks out from below the horizon. Like a promise about to come true. Something wonderful is coming. Frederick Buechner writes:
For a second you catch a whiff in the air of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
Advent. It means something wonderful is coming.
Time to Slow Down
This Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, a season in the liturgical calendar that starts every year on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. It’s a time for priming our hearts to treasure Christ. Yet amid all the frenetic end-of-year chaos, it’s so easy to squander these precious moments of waiting. Many of us know all too well what it’s like for December to blur by—what it’s like to arrive on the doorstep of Christmas as another exhausted casualty of our consumeristic age.
Reacting. Organizing. Shopping. Planning. Wrapping. Budgeting. Stressing. Eating. Stress-eating.
So I am writing to those who, like me, need to slow down and embrace the oft-missed words of the famous carol, “Let every heart prepare him room.”
Season of Remembering
As we remember God’s promises fulfilled at Christmas, we are reminded of just how intensely the incarnation of Christ shook the world. The meaning of Christmas goes miles deeper than family traditions, pretty lights, and a chance to refresh your depleted stockpile of socks.
For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.
Christmas means revolution. Christmas means miracle. Christmas means that God has come for us.
The King of heaven exchanged his throne for a cradle.
The Almighty swaddled himself with vulnerability.
The Creator entered into his own creation.
The Author put himself on the page.
The Infinite became an infant.
The Giver became the gift.
Jesus arrived as Immanuel—God with us. As Augustine said long ago, “He was created of a mother whom he created. He was carried by hands that he had formed.” Pondering how God has drawn near will deepen an appetite to pursue him.
Season of Anticipating
There’s something in observing Advent that awakens not only joyful remembrance over Christ’s first coming, but also deep eagerness for his second coming (Rev. 22:20). In many ways, the church in this age is in similar position to God’s people toward the end of the Old Testament—marginalized in exile, hoping in darkness, waiting in stillness for the Day when Christ returns to, in Tolkien’s words, make “every sad thing come untrue.”
We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return.
Like a child on Christmas Eve caught between joyful memories of the Christmas that was, while waiting with breathless anticipation for the Christmas about to be, so it is with God’s people. We are living between the Hallelujah of Christ’s resurrection and the Maranatha of Christ’s return. And here—in the waiting of Advent—God’s people discover a unique species of joy that can only be glimpsed through the lens of worshipful anticipation. Timothy Paul Jones puts it well:
In Advent, Christians embrace the groaning, recognizing it not as hopeless whimpering over the paucity of the present moment but as expectant yearning for the divine banquet Jesus is preparing for us. . . . Just as the ancient Israelites awaited the coming of the Messiah in flesh, we await the coming of the Messiah in glory. In Advent, believers confess that the infant who drew his first ragged breath between a virgin’s knees has yet to speak his final word.
Advent is a way of reminding us that we are pilgrims passing through; that the brokenness of this world isn’t how it’s always going to be; that the true King is indeed coming soon.
Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room
As with most things, knowing where to begin is usually the most difficult part. Below are some resources that will help readers slow down each day and cultivate worshipful anticipation through the Advent season. For families, observing Advent together could be the perfect time to rekindle the fire of family devotions, or light them up for the first time.
December will be busy. But it doesn’t have to be a blur. Let’s begin preparing room in our hearts this Advent for Immanuel—God with us.
- Individuals: Come Let Us Adore Him: A Daily Advent Devotional by Paul Tripp
- Families: A Jesus Christmas: Explore God’s Amazing Plan for Christmas by Barbara Reaoch.
- Free: Austin Stone Church have put out a brilliant advent devotional the past few years that can be accessed here.