Thankful for Advent

We will enter into the season of Advent in the coming days, a season of great expectation and anticipation.  The first Sunday of Advent arrives on the last day of November this year, as we will start to light the candles on the Advent wreath, marking the days until the arrival of Christ, which is the meaning of Advent.  It is the "arrival" or "coming" of Christ.  It is a time full of waiting as well as full of preparation.

Waiting and preparation coincide during Advent because our waiting is not passive and our preparation is not efficient.  They work together, as we participate in the coming of Christ.  We prepare ourselves, and we prepare this world for the arrival of Christ, who comes to bring hope and peace, joy and love.  We mark these days with expectation, like the people of God did years ago, surprised by the birth of Jesus, but we also prepare, knowing what to expect, allowing the birth of Jesus to shape the growing edges of our lives.

These days are full of preparation, pulling us in many directions and demanding many things from us.  We will be busy to the last minute, making sure food is prepared, gifts are wrapped, and cards are sent.  It is a time full of great memories, but also stretching us thin.  In Advent, we are called to pause, even if it is just for a few minutes each day to look beyond all of our other tasks to see the waiting that prepares us for Christ and in order to prepare a waiting world for Christ.

We wait in order to prepare ourselves, so we look for the grace in our midst, redirecting some of our focus to the manger, where we are surprised by what we find.  It is the beginning of something new, which we greet anew each year.  We find the grace of God amongst us in the flesh.  Our eyes are opened to what is always in front of us, yet we do not always see. 

We also prepare a waiting world, knowing that the world yearns for hope and peace, joy and love.  We look for ways to participate in the coming of Christ by extending the grace of God into the world, where it can be seen in the flesh.  We take time to speak kindly, look mercifully, act humbly, and think carefully about faith and life.  We open our hearts with gratitude to the ways of grace, and we allow our words and actions to be moved by them. 

We live into Advent by waiting and by preparing for Christmas, where we will celebrate anew, the coming of Emmanuel, or "God is with us."  We will gather with others to sing, to pray, to give thanks, to serve, and to worship many times over the course of the next several weeks.  Each time, we will wait for Christmas, and we will prepare a way for the Lord.