Saturday, December 20, 2014

Advent - Come, Lord Jesus

The Christmas countdown is on in earnest at our house - our two bright-eyed boys (6 and 10) are practically jumping out of their skin! School finished yesterday. Five more sleeps :)  They can hardly stand the wait! As I child, I much preferred it when school closed as close to Christmas Eve as possible - it made the wait a little more bearable. If we all manage to survive the next five days, it'll be a Christmas miracle, indeed!

It's the presents that are driving them particularly batty. This is the first year we've put gifts under the tree before Christmas eve (indeed, the first year we've been able to shop much before Christmas eve - thankful!). I appreciate on a whole new level the lengths to which my dear Mother was forced to go to ensure that the fragile wrapping paper would do its job of concealment until the appointed time. (I think she was very grateful and relieved when sturdy, economical, re-usable gift bags arrived on the scene. My own kids have boycotted gift bags - one or two are ok, they've informed me, but they would much rather experience the satisfaction of ripping paper...) I had forgotten the agonizing thrill of stacking, sorting, counting, arranging and rearranging; of shaking and squeezing and yes, even sniffing; of guessing and wondering and questioning and anticipating. The following plea can be (and has been) heard from either boy at any time, seemingly out of the blue, day or night: "I can't wait - can't I pleeeeeese open just one little present RIGHT NOW?!"

Ah, waiting...the bane of our existence. At least the kids are honest about it - we adults will invariably attempt to mask the wild eagerness and churning anxiety that accompanies a period of waiting, but have any of us really progressed beyond childhood when it comes to waiting well? I sang a song at a service recently called "Be Still". With very simple and beautiful lyrics, the chorus says,

Be still, my soul, be still
Be still, my soul, be still
Wait patiently up on the Lord
Be still, my soul, be still

A difficult piece of advice to heed even in the best of times.

I love that the observation of Advent has become common practice for so many these days. Advent, which simply means "arrival", can be a beautiful, meaningful time of heart-preparation for the game-changing coming of the Christ-child into the world. The wait is relatively easy for us, though - isn't it? We already know the next part of the story - God is already with us! We have already experienced the miraculous gift of Emmanuel! Can you imagine what it must have been like for the people of Israel; waiting, waiting, waiting for this Advent, their promised Messiah? Waiting for their salvation, their freedom, the lifting of the heavy burden of oppression and persecution, for peace and justice and redemption...what inexpressible joy for the few who were able to recognize Him for who He was!

And what a heart-breaking tragedy for the many who missed Him completely, who failed to grant Him His rightful position...and for those who continue to miss Him. I don't ever want to be numbered among these.

May we intentionally take the time to sufficiently still our souls this Advent season to experience the waiting, the longing, the expectant hope - and to know the deep peace and rest and joy that accompanies His arrival! Merry, merry Christmas - from our family to yours!

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