Christmas usually sneaks up on me. No, it's not that I'm blissfully enjoying the season and suddenly--who knew?--it's Christmas! In the not-so-distant past, I've been studying for exams, longing for Christmas break. Last year, I was trying to keep my head above water making/giving/grading 120 exams and attempting to survive the pre-Christmas madness at school, and then traveling all over creation to celebrate with our wonderful families. (It truly is traveling all over creation when U.S. Airways cancels your flight to Miami on Christmas Day and then rebooks your trip through Dallas. At least they had the decency to put us in first class.)
Regardless, I haven't been very thoughtful about this season on the whole, at least in my adult life. I plod through the month of December, do my Christmas shopping (usually at the last minute), eat way too much food at parties (as if sugar cookies are going extinct), and generally go unthinkingly about my days until Christmas day arrives. All too well, I can think back to the past few Christmases, where on Christmas Eve I suddenly realize I haven't thought a whole lot about the coming of Christ, feel a wave of guilt, and I scurry to get my Bible out and read through some of the gospels. You know, I check that box off and whew, I feel a little bit better.
So there is my confession.
For the past couple of years I/we have been attending Anglican churches, and I just love how they follow the church calendar. (I know other churches do as well, but I'm just speaking from recent experience.) Yesterday, we celebrated the first Sunday of Advent with the lighting of the Advent candle, the singing of Christmas hymns, and the reminder from Matthew 24 that Jesus has called us to be watching and waiting. We do not know the day that Jesus will come again, not as a baby but as the King. The here and the now is not forever, as much as culture wants us to believe it is. But as we wait for Jesus to return and make all things new, we are called to be faithful, to be wise, to be thoughtful. This is a season of waiting, of remembering Christ's incarnation as a baby who then broke his body on the tree so that He could give us life, and life to the fullest. And we wait for Him to come back, full of grace and glory and power.
Do we live like we're waiting?
I'd like to live like I'm waiting this December and into the new year. It is a fresh start, because God is gracious enough to give me another opportunity to thoughtfully await His good gifts.
Will you join me?
(I'd like to recommend the book The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp, which John and I are reading together at night [available in Kindle format]. There's a short reading for each day of Advent, leading up to Christmas, along with a passage of Scripture and some questions for thought.)