If you listed the top things that you least like to do, I’m pretty sure that waiting would be on your list. I know that it’s on mine. It doesn’t matter if it is waiting at a red light or a line at the store, we would rather have an express lane option where we could skip the line.
But waiting is part of life. Parents must wait nine months for the birth of their child. Patients must wait for the results of their lab tests. Students must wait for graduation. However, the upside of waiting is that it gives us the opportunity to be prepared.
Think back to when you were a child. When Dec. 1 rolled around, it is likely that you could hardly wait for Christmas. If your family used an Advent calendar, it offered you a visual reminder of that approaching day. Some 30 years ago, our family got an Advent calendar with different pieces of the Nativity. Each day we would put out a different piece until Christmas Day when baby Jesus was put out. Watching the Nativity scene grow brought expectation and prepared our hearts to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas.
The Advent season starts this Sunday. Advent is a season observed in many Christian churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas as well as the return of Jesus at the second coming. The term is a version of the Latin word meaning “coming.” “Waiting” and “preparation” are two important words to remember as we celebrate Christmas.
Expectant waiting brings to mind the emotions of parents waiting for the birth of their child. Being given a due date allows them to circle the date on their calendar and to make preparations for the birth of their new child. Though studies show that only 5 percent of women give birth on their actual due date, we expectantly wait and prepare for that day. It is with such expectation and preparation that we celebrate Advent.
There are two dates that we remember at Advent. The first is Christmas, Dec. 25, where we celebrate Christ’s birth. Churches will often use an Advent wreath to light candles on each of the four Sundays preceding Christmas to guide their waiting. The Advent celebrations will often culminate with a Christmas Eve Service on Dec. 24. All of this is done to prepare our hearts as we expectantly wait to celebrate Christ’s birth. To download a free Advent devotional, go to CacheValleyBible.org.
The second date that we are waiting for at Advent is the second advent of Christ at the second coming. Unlike Christmas Day, this date is unknown to us. In fact, Jesus says, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33)
As our definition reminded us, we are not to wait for these days with a laissez-faire attitude; we are to wait expectantly and with preparation. What does this mean? Throughout the New Testament, the church is told to be ready; we are to be, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Titus 2:13) If the disciples and the early church were to expect the coming of the Lord at any time, how much more should we be waiting in keen expectation and hope?
At Advent, we then remember Christ’s birth when he came as Emmanuel, God with Us. We also look forward to His Second Coming when all who believe in him will be raised to new life. Our waiting for the first advent, Christmas, prepares us in our waiting for his second advent.
Waiting allows us to discern what is important. Think back to the shopping lines on Black Friday. If you braved the stores, and found the item you searched for, you may have asked yourself if it was really worth the wait needed to purchase it. We joyfully wait for things that we value — like the birth of our child.
I hope that you will use this Advent season to not simply prepare for the perfect Christmas celebration with food, gifts and decorations, but that you will use it prepare your heart to celebrate the hope that is ours in Christ’s birth. Only by recognizing the glory revealed in His birth are we able to expectantly wait for His second advent.