Summary: We are still in the season of Advent, not Christmas. We can’t be ready for Christmas unless we prepare ourselves through Advent.
Waiting for Christmas
December 17, 2006
Back in the late 1980’s when I was pastor over at First UMC in Morocco, Indiana, I was approached by a gentleman from the congregation asking about my choice of hymns. “Why can’t we sing Christmas hymns?”
It has been December for a couple of weeks and we had yet to sing a Christmas hymn in church. I told him that we weren’t singing Christmas hymns because it wasn’t Christmas yet, although the next week I gave in. In the years since, I have loosened up a bit. People want to sing Christmas songs in December and I have come to believe that happy parishioners are sometimes more important than liturgical correctness.
But that is what this season is all about. We are still in Advent. The Christmas season, despite what you find at the malls and shopping centers, has not yet come. We are waiting for Christmas. Don’t we all tell our children that something good is worth waiting for?
On the other hand, we have become accustomed to not waiting. We certainly hate to wait for anything, don’t we? Waiting causes so much discomfort and we want to get right to the good stuff and the warm fuzzies; right to the stuff that makes us feel good. If I’m hungry, I can pop a frozen dinner into the microwave and be eating in five and a half minutes. Need some popcorn to go with my Sunday Night Football? Three minutes and twenty seconds later, I can be munching to my heart’s content.
Why take the time to shop at the mall when I can do all that stuff on the internet without ever getting out of my pajamas? Why save up for that new stereo or the new digital camera I want as long as there is plastic? Just charge it and worry about the interest payments later.
I guess that it is understandable why it is so difficult to wait through the Advent season when we consider our get-it-any-way-we-want-it world. The Christmas lights have been up since Halloween, Santa Claus has arrived in the department stores, holiday shopping has begun in earnest, and the Fort Wayne District Christmas party was two weeks ago.
But I would like you to consider Advent and Christmas today, because they are two separate seasons. Christmas is not something we can just jump into without being ready. Waiting in Advent is a time of preparation. We can’t be fully ready for Christmas unless we are prepared to accept Christ and adopt the lifestyle to which he calls us. Advent is the time to get our lives in line so that we will be ready when Jesus finally does get here.
When you think about it, Christians ought to be better at waiting and preparing than anybody else because we’ve had so much practice. Think back through our history. God called Abraham and told him to go into a far land where his descendants would number as the stars in the heavens. It didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen in a year or even in a decade. But God was preparing Abraham through his waiting.
The Children of Israel waited in Egyptian slavery for four-hundred years as God prepared them for the time when they would renew the covenant made with Abraham. When Moses led them out from Egypt, they anxiously waited for a homecoming in the Promised Land. God kept them waiting for forty years, preparing them for life which acknowledged him as the only source of their hope and strength.
David was promised the throne of Israel, but the wait was long and arduous. The long wait was a time when he was preparing to be the kind of leader who could guide the nation to greatness.
The prophets who came later sought to prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. They told the nation that it would have to endure a time of waiting and preparation for a time when they would be cleansed through suffering for service. Through it all, they waited for the coming of Messiah, the One who would truly set the nation free; the One who would be their salvation.
For two thousand years now, we have waited for Jesus to return to set up his new Kingdom. We wait for the coming of the day when the Lord will reign in the new heaven and the new earth. Though we ought to understand times of waiting and preparation better than most others, we too find it difficult sometimes. Waiting is hard.
As God prepares us for the coming of Christ, we find that he has different ideas of what we need than we have. Especially in modern day America, where we go out of our way to avoid discomfort; we sometimes find the time of waiting through Advent to be excruciating.