A View from the Pew: What Are We Waiting For?

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I wasn’t introduced to Advent as a season of spiritual reflection and anticipation until well into adulthood. But for nearly 20 years now, this season has enriched my spiritual journey leading up to Christmas and become much more than lighting candles in a wreath.

For me, Advent has come to mean anticipation, and each year, what I’m looking forward to changes depending on my personal circumstances and current events. As I engage with daily devotions written by my fellow church members, celebrate with the music of the season each week in worship, and gather for festive fellowship at the homes of friends and loved ones, I find myself asking “What am I waiting for?”

Here’s my list for 2015:

Rest. Believe it or not, the season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day affords me down time. Yes, with Advent comes a hustle and bustle of preparation for Christmas, but what I’ve discovered is that most of those extra activities are front-loaded. The first two weeks of December are jam packed, but the week leading up to Christmas is relatively quiet.

I can’t think of a better time of year to practice the spiritual discipline of Sabbath than during these days of anticipation leading to Christmas.

Family time. We make it habit to sit down together as family for supper nearly every night, but we are otherwise overtaken by our busy and divergent schedules. With three active boys, my wife and I cope the way most parents in our situation do: divide and conquer.

During this season, we spend intentional time as a family that sparks conversation and laughter and hugs and memories. This is when multiple generations of our family can be together, enjoying stories about those who are no longer with us and seeing that the future is in good hands.

Extending hospitality. Decorating our home for Christmas is work, but it’s the kind of work that doesn’t feel onerous. I love pulling into the driveway at the end of a workday and seeing the lights and wreaths and ribbons. I feel more welcome in my own home with such attention to beauty.

But what makes the decorating worth the trouble is when we can invite others into our home. The decorating makes us open to having people come into our living space and reflects an openness to what God is doing in our lives through the people we invite in. The conversations I have in my home with friends, new and familiar, are often profound and memorable.

Worship. I enjoy worship year-round, but the evocative hymnody of Advent with its themes of hope, peace, joy, and love strike such a resonant chord that, from the Hanging of the Green to Epiphany, God has more of my attention during Advent than at any other time.

I can’t help but draw comparisons between world events during the first expectation of the Messiah’s birth and what we’re experiencing now. The more unsettled and out-of-control the world seems, the more I benefit from reflecting on God’s way of working through the small and seemingly insignificant to bring about change. Thus, I sing with a little more fervor, pray with more intensity, and focus my thoughts with more openness to God’s work in my life during these four weeks.

Opportunities to give. Our church follows the time-honored tradition of many Baptists by receiving an offering at Christmas to support God’s work in the world. I enjoy hearing from those who dedicate their lives to service and am inspired to give to their work.

And whether they are names on an Angel Tree, folded bills stuffed in a red kettle, or a shoebox packed with gifts for a child half-way around the world, the invitations to let go of my resources so that someone else can benefit bless me in profound ways.

Now that I’ve listed them out like this, my anticipation for Christmas Eve has only heightened. Come to think of it, all of these wonderful gifts of the season could be enjoyed any time of year. What are we waiting for?

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson who does media relations for the Georgia Institute of Technology. He previously served as Director of Communications with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Lance blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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