I never knew much about Advent growing up, beyond those little countdown calendars with the bad chocolate and jolly cartoon santas and elves. Of course, I never had one, because my parents would have considered it a sin to eat bad chocolate. #spoiled.
To me, Christmas was about decorations and cookies and music, and most importantly, presents. But as I’ve gotten older and as my kids have gotten older, I’ve found myself really searching for what it means to be more intentional when it comes to not only celebrating Christmas, but preparing for Christmas.
And I’ve fallen head-over-heels in love with Advent.
Advent literally means “coming” in Latin, and it’s all about waiting. Such a novel idea in the “get it now” culture that we live in today, isn’t it? During Advent, we meditate on the celebration of the birth of Jesus and why it matters. But more than that; we also use this time to anticipate with great expectation the return of Christ.
We celebrate the “already” of His birth and the “not yet” of His return. We use our waiting to focus on a different aspect of our faith each week. So it’s not a passive waiting but an active waiting, full of listening, watching, meditation, contemplation, and prayer.
I adore this.
In a world where consumerism is king at Christmas, Advent is truly a way to slow down, reflect, and bring our anticipation back to the real meaning behind why we celebrate each year.
Bear with me, friends, because I am no expert on Advent or even theology in general. These are merely my own personal reflections. There are many ways to celebrate Advent, especially depending on where you live and which traditions you follow. But the point of it all is to keep the main thing the main thing. To center your heart on the lasting and greatest gift any of us will ever receive, that of the redeeming love of Jesus.
For this series on Advent, I’ll offer four weekly meditations focusing on Hope, Peace, Joy and Love.
In our home, we light a candle each Sunday to represent the light of Christ in the darkness…and then there’s usually a lot of talking all at once and asking for treats and maybe someone will be barking like a dog or lying on the floor in protest or telling Alexa to play Christmas Kidz Bop while we “read” from our beautiful Advent book by Ann Voskamp. I have a nine-year-old and 2 four-year-olds and everyone wants to be heard ever so much. It is contemplative in exactly zero ways.
But we plant the seeds and lo and behold the Advent of bedtime is soon upon us! The eventual silence of my precious sleeping littles is music to my ears and I soon find my sacred moment by the peaceful glow of the Christmas tree.
So find your quiet moment, whenever that might be. Grab a warm mug, a cozy blanket, and light a candle. Come with me on a journey toward Hope. It is the first week of Advent.
I have always, always loved Christmas music. And I mean, it’s fine if you don’t, but like, what sort of friends can we even be?
When I was a kid, my family would always listen to this one album in particular called Calypso Christmas by the De Paur Chorus, produced in 1956. My grandpa recorded it to a cassette from the original vinyl on his record player. You could hear the crackles on the recording and it was old and nostalgic and a little obscure but I didn’t care. I mean, we lived just outside of Portland, weren’t we supposed to be a bit obscure anyway? I loved all the jaunty rhythms and island lingo. It was perfectly sing-along-able.
We would belt out all the lyrics in our maroon Chrysler minivan, driving home from Grandma and Grandpa’s on Christmas Eve, stuffed to the gills with Danish aebelskivers and visions of Christmas dreams. Whenever I hear that album now (which I have upgraded to CD, thankyouverymuch), I am immediately transported back to my childhood. Music is so delightful in that way.
Sometimes we can become so familiar with an old song that we end up singing the words without even thinking about what we are saying. As an adult, I’m trying to pay a lot more attention to the words of some of my favorite Christmas songs. As I become more mindful of what I’m actually singing, Advent becomes fresher and richer and more meaningful.
Recently, the words of O Holy Night have struck a chord deep within my heart, awaking my soul to the profound truth they hold. I used to think this song was about peace, but now I know it’s actually all about hope. Let’s have a closer look.
Long lay the world
In sin and error, pining
Do you hear just a hint of despair? There’s an emptiness. Things aren’t as they should be. Something is missing.
We know we are not meant for this emptiness. Yet, we are not merely waiting for something more. No, we are desperate for it, whether we know it or not.
Our souls hunger for the wholeness that can only come from knowing the Savior who’s very birth we find ourselves anticipating. We pine. We hope.
The next line may as well be the essence of faith distilled down into a single sentence, which I find rather amusing as the song was originally written by a French wine merchant who was unlikely to be frequenting the inside of some church on any sort of regular basis. Yet here he found himself.
And I might add, Jesus probably would have taken a liking to this quirky wine merchant. He tended to gravitate toward the more rough-around-the-edges-type characters. (Just a little encouragement if you think you have nothing to offer. You do. The Bible is filled with odd ducks. Just check out John the Baptist. He was a weird dude…I digress). Back to the song.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth
Take a second to meditate on that line.
…He appeared and the soul felt its worth
There’s an acknowledgment in these words, don’t you think? Something about His presence causes us to realize that our worth, our purpose is fulfilled when we are in communion with him. It’s an answer to the pining. He’s the answer to our pining. To our hoping. He is our hope fulfilled.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices
Then comes the realization that we were created for more than enduring the weariness of the world.
What’s more, when we can know this truth deep inside our souls, we shift from enduring brokenness to embracing opportunity.
When we realize that we were created for more, we realize that so is everyone else. He appeared not just for me. He appeared for everyone. Even those who are different from me. Even the poor, the sick, the outcast, the lonely, the difficult family member or friend, and every last weirdo. He appeared for all the freaky people.
I am not more worthy than you, and you are no more worthy than me. We all matter so very deeply in the kind eyes of Jesus. Knowing, really knowing how unabashedly tender He is toward each and every soul should move us toward compassion and love.
When we see beyond the brokenness of not only ourselves but those around us to the absolute truth that we are each cherished beyond our wildest dreams by the One who came to save us all, we are free to receive, and in turn to offer, grace and mercy and love in crazy, extravagant abundance.
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
There’s a verse in one of the Old Testament books of the Bible called Lamentations that tells us that His mercies are new every morning.
A new and glorious morn surely it was on that first day after his birth! But that was only the beginning of the story. We must not forget that we also are offered his mercies afresh each and every day.
And furthermore, we wait with an expectant hope for that day when He will come and cast the weariness of this world as far as the east is from the west, once and for all. Now that’s something worth hoping for.
You guys. Let’s lift our eyes a little higher than the weariness we wallow in. Let’s lift our gaze high enough to look into the eyes of the One who loves us so recklessly, so lavishly, so overwhelmingly. Let’s look to the One who appeared to give our souls worth, to restore us to wholeness.
Put your hope in Him.
Live fully into His grace, mercy and love.
Pass it on to others.
The rest is just details.