All of the sudden, the calendar on our desk and the sounds of the radio say that Christmas is here. Our families gathered for Thanksgiving, and now we are making decisions about Christmas shopping. What does Uncle Joe and our sister want this year? Now that my son is ten years old, what is the perfect gift? The art of choosing a meaningful gift is a good thing, but it can overwhelm us as well. We make lists to remind us of our other lists, as we push in the clutch and shift our lives into fifth gear.
However, at the church, the sanctuary is transformed by hanging greenery, and the pulpit and the altar are adorned with purple. Christmas is not here yet, but Advent has arrived, and it has us waiting. As we gaze at the sanctuary, it calls us to gaze out at the world, seeing the stark difference between its current brokenness and God's promised wholeness. Advent blurs the lines between the joy of Christmas and the expectations of the kingdom of God.
When we leave the sanctuary, we are caught up again in the whirlwind of lists and plans, and Advent has a tendency to get lost. Even with our best intentions, it can be consumed by the consumption of this holiday season. Ironically, one of the places we find the practice of waiting outside of the sanctuary during this time of year is the lines at the department store. At the stores we visit, there are lines that slow us down. There is no purple adorning the cash register, but these lines do make us wait.
In our rushing and forced busyness, it is easy to forget that it is Advent. It is like the businessman, who returns from vacation, and he goes to the office to catch up on the phone calls he missed while he was out of town. He is rummaging through message after message, dialing number after number. In the midst of phone call after phone call, he starts to loose track of whom he is dialing. He dials one phone number, and before the person answers the phone, he is already looking at the next message, so when the person answers the phone finally, he forgets who he called.
When we stand and wait in line this season, perhaps we could consider what we are truly waiting for in our lives. What are the hopes we have for our loved ones? What are the prayers we carry for the world? What are the hopes and the prayers of the gospel for all people?
As we wait on the coming of the Light of the World, we can spend more time reflecting on why we wait. Instead of the lists and the plans of this season distracting us from the waiting of Advent, we may become distracted with Advent. Who knows? By the time we reach the cash register after waiting in line, we may forget why we were standing in that line in the first place.