Sunday, November 29, 1998
Well! Did you have a good Thanksgiving this year? Still have plenty of turkey for creative cooking "opportunities?" And did you survive "the Friday after," that special day often called "black Friday" because it has become the busiest shopping day of the year? And now, Christmas is coming up...quickly! So hurry - get out the decorations, buy the tree, make the wassail!
But wait. Yes, wait. There's a "Christmas pre-season" of preparation. Tucked between the thankfulness of our rich blessings given us to by God and the birth of the Christ child is the season of Advent. And Advent is the season of waiting. Yes, waiting...and preparing.
Advent begins today, Nov. 29, and continues through Sunday, Dec. 20. You may be familiar with concept of the Advent Wreath, because it has almost become commercialized in itself (unfortunately). This is a wreath or log that holds four (and sometimes five) candles. It usually has a garland or spray of evergreen around it. But no bow or other ornamentation. Remember - this is advent, not Christmas. Beginning today, the first candle is lit, with an additional candle lit each following Sunday of the season.
Depending on tradition, the candles are either all purple (occasionally one still sees three purple and one pink), symbolizing royalty of the King whose birth we are about to celebrate, or - becoming more frequent - all blue, symbolizing hope.
Ah, hope! Now there's a word we could all use more of...And what exactly is it that we are waiting for preparing for, hoping for? That is the advent question that we ponder these four weeks before the Christmas miracle is again lifted up and embraced. That question is what we unpack mentally and spiritually, as we explore what it means to wait, to prepare, to hope in our lives.
Waiting is an intentional part of Advent, a time when we stop and look and listen for God in our past, which upon reflection causes us to realize where God is in our lives today, which gives us the sure knowledge and hope that God will continue to be with us tomorrow.
As Christians we also await the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. With this in mind, we stop, look and listen for ways to prepare for this in our lives. Where are our thoughts, our hearts, our motivations centered? Again and again we need to ask ourselves, as we see in the Gospel of Mark 4:41, "Who then is this (Jesus)?" Preparation also comes in other forms, such as thanking God for all the blessings we are showered with, coming to God and in humility asking God for forgiveness for those often-times when sin becomes prevalent, in petition for those things we feel we need, and then listening for God's voice amidst the bags and bows and clutter of our lives.
This Advent season, I invite you to wait, to prepare, and to hope for the One who is coming, the One who was born in a manger, died on a cross, and rose again to insure that in the beauty and the brutality of life and death, we might have everlasting and eternal life - through Him. (The Rev. Keith Hedrick is the associate pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville.)