Advent is a time of anticipation, preparation, and expectation. What are some things that you look forward to each year as you prepare for Christmas, and what are some things you would suggest that we all do in anticipation of Christ’s coming again?
Long before coming to a saving knowledge of Christ or being called into the ministry, I looked forward to celebrating Christmas with great anticipation as most young children do. I found that my family’s traditions enhanced the time leading up to December 25th and aided in increasing my excitement for the day. I look back now with nostalgia at that time of my life even as I realize that Christmas has taken on a new meaning for me now which includes new traditions. One thing that has stayed the same though is that the elation I experience this time of year has never waned.
Growing up I would say that the foremost focus of Christmas was on getting gifts. I didn’t know a lot about Jesus when I was a child, but you can be sure that I was on good terms with Old Saint Nick. Every year there would be gifts wrapped and placed under the tree by my parents long before the actual day but then, on Christmas morning, there would always appear new gifts with the familiar tag attached, “From Santa.” It was fun picking up and shaking all of the packages that had been laid out beforehand in an attempt to guess what they could be, but the “Santa” presents were special because they always seemed to be bigger or better than the others—something that I truly wanted. It was fine if my folks wanted to give me socks or some generic version of a toy, but it was Santa, or rather Grandma and Grandpa as I found out when I was older, that gave me such amazing gifts. I received things like my first Big Wheel, The Dukes of Hazzard Race Track, a tape recorder (the one everyone started out with that was a black rectangle that lay flat and chewed up every other cassette that you placed in it), and even my very own TV. (Yes, it was only 13” inches and was B&W but it was mine!) Every year I was like the boy from the classic movie A Christmas Story who, only after unwrapping all of his other presents, was surprised to find out that his father had saved the best for last. Ralphie received his very own Red Rider, carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle and Randy learned repeatedly that good things came to those who wait. Oh, and that you WILL shoot your eye out!
Fast forward a decade or two after finding out that Santa wasn’t real (I learned the hard way when one year there simply were no extra gifts hiding around the corner after everything else had been opened), after learning the true meaning of Christmas, and after intentionally forming traditions with my own family and the church families that I pastored. The emphasis I had placed on “getting” gifts has been replaced with “giving” them but some things are still the same. I still love watching all of the movies and television specials dedicated to this season (Charlie Brown, Elf, The Muppets Christmas Carol, and It’s a Wonderful Life are among the many staples in my house), I still love belting out Christmas carols whether in the shower, in my car, or walking down the aisle at Walmart, and I still believe that the best things come to those willing to wait. To that end, I thought a good passage of Scripture to focus on for this first week of Advent is…
Luke 12:35-38 “Be dressed for service and keep your lamps burning, as though you were waiting for your master to return from the wedding feast. Then you will be ready to open the door and let him in the moment he arrives and knocks. The servants who are ready and waiting for his return will be rewarded. I tell you the truth, he himself will seat them, put on an apron, and serve them as they sit and eat! He may come in the middle of the night or just before dawn. But whenever he comes, he will reward the servants who are ready.” (NLT)
Waiting is doable when you know the time and the date, like December 25th for example, but it is hard to stay vigilant when you do not know either. I think the uncertain times that we have been living in over this past year have helped us gain some perspective on this. Between wondering when the pandemic would end, the protests would subside, and a president would be announced, we all have learned how exhausting it can be sitting on the sidelines waiting for a solution and how easy it is to find ourselves focusing on other things. So, knowing that many who were supposed to be waiting and watching for Jesus on that first Christmas ended up missing out on meeting the Messiah, we need to make sure that we are that much more intentional as we anticipate the Advent of Christ’s Second Coming. We need to make sure that we do not get so distracted with the things of this world that we too will miss him. Like the servants waiting for their master to return, we need to be constantly ready, always alert, and perpetually prepared.
We do this by making sure that we that we are consistently doing those things that help us to keep in step with the Spirit and keep our eyes focused on Christ. Just as you might decorate your house, watch the movie Elf, put Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis” on a loop, and read Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol to help put you in the Christmas spirit, it is much more important that we spend time in the Word, in prayer, in worship, and in fellowship with other believers so that we might remain in Christ’s Spirit. And, in addition, while we are waiting we should do what waiters do—serve.
What were some of your Christmas traditions when you were growing up and what are they now?
What are some practices you can commit to that would help you keep your eyes on Christ?
What are some practical ways you can serve God and others during this season of Advent?
This is meant to be an interactive blog so please share some of your responses with us.