Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent opposites

I've read a lot of uplifting personal reflections on Advent this year. Cultivating Advent traditions seems like a great way to help kids (and enthusiastic adults) find meaning in the period leading up to Dec. 25th each year.

Of course, as we get older, we realize that it's not about the presents, or the yummy food, or even the beauty of the decorations. We start to listen to the words of the songs we love so much, look up the meanings of the candles, maybe abstain from the more materialistic aspects of the present-day holiday. We meditate on themes like darkness and light, God's love and glory, the circle of life.

And we find that that the period of waiting actually holds plenty of joy, itself. But what does this mean for daily life? I've been musing about the following:
read on/-

The Wait

While some Christian denominations may fast somberly during the Advent period, I find it to be a joyous time, even if toned down with thoughtful reflections.

I was watching the "Nativity Story" recently and was moved once again by the gifts of the Magi. The gold, frankincense, and....myrrh, for burial. His sacrifice.

With these contrasting themes of birth and death, I thought to myself...I like this time. It holds almost as much joy as the holiday itself. And it adds joy to the holiday, because we have waited.

What if we could wait for all of the joys of life with the same reverence, expectation, and even creativity? If we bustled around setting up our hearts and homes for something wonderful?

The challenge here is that we don't know the date. Okay, maybe we have an estimated date for the wedding, or for when the baby comes, or for when someone special is coming home. Maybe it's the last exam or a deadline at work, after which we can breathe a sigh of relief. But many of the needs we have set before the Lord will be answered in His timing, unknown to us. What then? We can't make paper chains counting down the days before a sickness will go away, or light a candle indicating how many weeks until we are done grieving for someone.

The countdown doesn't work here. So if we are to find joy in the waiting, it will only come from trusting in the Lord. After all, the OT people of faith didn't have Advent calendars, and they still managed to live amazing lives for Him.

It's the "joy in the journey" that Michael Card sings about so poignantly.

The Crown

As I was observing the above, I thought, but a greater joy is yet to come.

We fight the secularization of Christmas by adding Advent, until this period of waiting becomes a holiday in itself. We learn to enjoy the expectation.

But I caught myself wondering, is it possible to enjoy the wait too much? So much that the holiday itself loses its flavor?

Is any enthusiasm left for the Big Event, for welcoming Christ at last?

What I mean is, if we enjoy life too much, are we forgetting about the joy that awaits us in heaven? Or is joy in the Lord limitless? Can we be totally content with Him in this life AND still look forward to the joy of Christ meeting His bride?

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