Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent and Christmas Are Not for Sissies!

Christmas is an amazing time of year.  It is filled with shopping trips and lists of things to do.  It is filled with writing cards and spending time on line at the local post office.  It is filled with family gatherings and craziness with relatives you seldom get to spend time with.  It is filled with rich food and too many snacks sitting around to munch on.  It is filled with long lines and gift returns.  It is filled with company parties and too many adult beverages.  It is filled with hectic schedules and stressful travel arrangements.  It is filled with rushing about and feeling behind too much of the time.   It is filled with much, too much that can drain us spiritually and emotionally from the true meaning of the season.

But the Christmas season is not yet here – it’s close but it has yet to arrive.  We are still in Advent – the liturgical season of preparation for the coming of the Christ child - despite how we might be living in the present.  Advent is a time of expectant waiting and anticipation for the Second Coming of the Christ as well.  It is about being ready.  It is about preparing ourselves to receive this amazing gift.  It is about celebrating the first coming while preparing for the second.  It is the beginning of the liturgical year, but too often we rush through it without embracing the opportunities it affords.  I have seen far too many examples of this in the past month.  And I have fallen victim to it a few times as well.

We want to rush through Advent to get to Christmas as quickly as we can.  We rush into singing Christmas hymns because we cannot wait.  We rush into the stores at midnight on Black Friday because Christmas shopping cannot come too quickly.  We rush into the joy of Christmas without wanting to experience the despair often associated with anticipation and waiting.

Rushing past the waiting is easy.  Waiting for the coming of Christ is hard.  It’s not for sissies.  It means embracing the reality of being on a journey that brings us closer to God and closer to the coming of our Savior.  But it means waiting in the brokenness.  It means taking the journey without shortcuts. 

We wait for a Savior that comes to heal our broken world, who comes to free the captive and give sight to the blind, who comes to bring justice to those who are afflicted and oppressed, who comes to make the world what God intends, who comes to bind our wounds, who comes to make things right.  But we have to wait and prepare for that coming.

Waiting is still where we sit – for a few days more.  If you, like me, have rushed too much into the Christmas Season too quickly – take these last few days and nights to truly prepare.  Take these last few days to wait expectantly.  Take these last few days to hear once again – or for the very first time - the lyrics of the great hymn, O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
Who orderest all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.

O come, Thou Root of Jesse’s tree,
An ensign of Thy people be;
Before Thee rulers silent fall;
All peoples on Thy mercy call.

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.

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