The Christmas season rushes by each year – and if we don’t stop, pause, open our eyes, it will be gone before we know it. This is one of the main reasons I sought to discover the season of Advent, as the Church has called it for hundreds of years. My Christmas’ were always meaningful — but I felt they had grown “weak” at times. The Celtic Christian tradition called parts of life that were ripe with God reminders “thin spaces” — and I recognized Christmastime was certainly a thin space. But, I longed to recognize God in the season–more than a few hymns and a nativity seen.
But, I what I was really asking, was, “how can christmastime shape my soul — my entire life?”
I have dug into Advent over the years with our Convergence Community — and it has shaped me–and I pray many others.
Advent means waiting. Henri Nouwen calls the waiting that Advent refers to as “active waiting.” In our English language, wait tends to often imply passivity. But, in Hebrew, the word wait and hope are virtually the same word. They can be interchanged. So, “Wait for the Lord” can equally be translated “Hope in the Lord.” I’m not great with waiting–I tend to be impatient. And, honestly, I struggle with cynicism — to HOPE isn’t always my first response. In fact, cynicism (i’ve found) is a strategy to guard against unmet hopes. Yeah, we all have those — and the longer we live, the more hopes we will have that go unmet. And yet, Advent, is the season to be reminded that waiting and hoping never go out of style — they aren’t meant to be “grown out of” for more sensible things like busyness and cynicism.
This is our season to recalibrate HOPE in the Lord.
This is our season to grown in patience and wait.
I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
– Psalm 130:5-6
The readings below are meant to spark further discussion and reflection in our life as ADVENT does it’s work on us . . . leading us toward living the GIFT of JOY and LOVE to one another.
The following First Sunday in A Family Worship Service for the Four Sundays of Advent by Martha Zimmerman
ADVENT SUNDAY • 01
Preparation • We light the candle on the first Sunday in Advent to remind us that we must prepare our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child.
Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this” (NIV).
Ask God to help us make room for Jesus in our hearts and in our home.
ADVENT SUNDAY • 02
Love • We light this candle on the second Sunday in Advent to remind us that Jesus came to earth to “show and tell” us of God’s love.
“I love you just as the Father loves me; remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (TEV).
Ask God to help us love one another. Thank Him for His gift of Love, which is what Christmas is all about.
ADVENT SUNDAY • 03
Joy • We light the candle on the third Sunday in Advent to remind us that the angels said, “We have news of great joy!”
“May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus” (TEV).
Let’s pray each day that the joy we know, the joy that is in our hearts, will be shown through our life.
ADVENT SUNDAY • 04
God’s Gift • We light this candle on the fourth Sunday in Advent to remind us of God’s gift.
2 Corinthians 4:6
“God, who first ordered light to shine in darkness, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ” (Phillips).
Ask God to help you understand real giving, which is the gift of yourselves. Ask God to PREPARE you to be a GIFT, to open your eyes to see who and how you can serve through LOVE and JOY.
While we are wrap and unwrap gifts this season, let us remember God’s gift to us.