This advent I am going to try an experiment and I invite you to join me if you wish. I want to experience that Christmas joy I felt as a child. I want to feel the anticipation of receiving something I desperately want. And I think that Advent is set up for me to prepare to do this. As I get older, the Christmas joy I seek seems to be more and more elusive. However, I believe, that if I enter into Advent – anticipating and preparing for the real Christmas present we are all promised, I just might find it under my tree (or around it, behind it, or in front of it)!
I know that the four weeks before Christmas is used by everyone who celebrates Christmas to frantically get ready for the big event of the year – Christmas Day. But I beg you to remember that these four weeks before Christmas is also Advent, the liturgical season of the year of waiting and listening – rather than doing much of anything. How do practicing Christians in the real world reconcile these two extremes?
The church has also romanticized this Holy Day by ignoring that it is the second coming for which we wait, and instead we focus on the first coming of Christ with pictures of Jesus as a newborn in the manger with Mary on the left and Joseph on the right and goats and sheep and cows and camels all wandering about.
But this year, I don’t want to focus on the baby Jesus. Instead, I want to focus on the historical Jesus who came to teach us about the way of God. He came to teach us how to be in relationship with God and where that might lead us. Jesus’ promise of the future kingdom to come is why Jesus is as relevant today as he was to those who experienced his miraculous birth, his amazing life, his tragic crucifixion and death, and his astounding resurrection. You may ask, “What do you mean by the second coming of Christ? Isn’t that something only the Evangelicals talk about?” Even though there has been human speculation and a lot of writing about what this second coming will look like, I don’t think anyone really knows, nor do we know when it will be fully actualized. But what we do know is that Jesus used “the kingdom of God” and “the kingdom of heaven” a lot to talk about this time to come in the future, but also the time we experience now, the times that we get a glimpse of the full and powerful reign of God. This advent, I invite you to enter into a time where you listen, pay attention, and explore experiences in your own lives where you see the kingdom come and where you feel the resurrected presence of Jesus in your life.
So how will I prepare? I am going to commit to spend time reflecting and praying every day of Advent with these two questions:
1. Where did I see evidence of the Kingdom of Heaven?
2. Where did I see Jesus working in, around or through someone else today?
For when I can see and experience God in the world, my faith deepens, my trust in God grows, and my gratitude is off the charts. This is when I truly experience the elusive joy of Christmas!
Here are a few other ways to enter into the experience of Listening, waiting, and hoping for Christ to come again!