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Slowing Down to Observe Advent

It’s December, the season of hustle and bustle. It’s interesting to me that while this season is one of the busiest of the year, according to the Christian calendar, which helps us mark time in a different way and according to a different story, this time of year is a time for learning to slow down and to wait with patience. Quite the contrast, isn’t it!

We call this season Advent, a season Christians through the ages have observed – the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day. The word “Advent” means “coming,” and the Advent season is a season of waiting and of preparation for the coming of Jesus. Christmas, we know, is about celebration, about joy. But advent is about waiting, about longing, about entering into the realities of the brokenness of the world, the brokenness in our lives, the dark places, the places of pain and confusion, of doubts and fears, of sin and failure. Advent is about looking at those things with honesty and with sorrow, mourning over them, and hungering and thirsting for God to come and heal all that is broken, and to make all things new. Advent is about learning to look to the coming of Jesus as our hope.

It’s important that we don’t just rush ahead to Christmas, but that we enter into Advent—that we don’t move too quickly into celebration, without first feeling our need and our longings and the brokenness all around us—so that when the celebration comes, it has depth to it. From the Fall of mankind onward—all through history, all through the Bible—the people of God have longed and yearned and waited and hoped for the coming of the One God promised to send, the Rescuer who would bring joy and healing back to our world.

That’s what the birth of Jesus was: the coming of the Coming One. He is the Rescuer. Through his death he has taken the curse of sin and triumphed over evil. By his resurrection, he has overcome death and set in motion the unfolding of a new creation; and it’s for this new creation that we, the people of Jesus, continue to wait. For us, Advent is about waiting for Christmas morning, the birth of our Savior, as a reminder that we now wait for his second coming, when he will bring to completion what he has begun.

Each Sunday of Advent, as we gather in worship, we will read Scriptures taken from the prophet Isaiah that give glimpses of this coming day—of God’s new creation—when all things will be set right and made new. We will light Advent candles, symbolic of the light Jesus has brought into our dark world and how his light will one day swallow up all the darkness; and how, in the words of Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

So this Christmas season, let’s make it our aim to slow down rather than hurry up, to not miss the invitation that Advent is to us. Let’s ask God to teach us how to wait and pray with eager longing for the coming of Jesus and for his new creation.

I’m looking forward to observing Advent together, and then…to celebrating Christmas!

Here are the Scriptures from Isaiah, if you’d like to read and mediate on them this season:

  • Week 1: Isaiah 2:1-5
  • Week 2: Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Week 3: Isaiah 35:1-10
  • Week 4: Isaiah 7:10-14
  • Christmas Eve: Isaiah 9:1-7
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