Where there is no vision, the people perish….
What are your plans for the coming year? Do you have any? It may be something as concrete as already-purchased plane tickets, or as ephemeral as “find a better job,” “exercise more,” or the eternally optimistic “lose weight.” Still, it’s good to have goals. We’ve all heard the old adage, “If you aim at nothing, you’re bound to hit it.”
Advent is a time of waiting. Children (and plenty of adults) are eagerly waiting to open their gifts, while others can’t wait to see their look of surprise and delight. We may be anticipating the arrival of family members who live far away, or we may be the ones traveling to see them. If we’re frazzled by all the holiday bustle, we may simply be waiting for January!
In the church, advent is a time of waiting for Jesus. Yes, He is already here. But each year we anticipate His birth anew, and the difference His presence makes in the world.
You know the words:
Away in a manger, no crib for a bed, the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.
The stars in the sky looked down where he lay, the little Lord Jesus, asleep on the hay.
The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes;
I love thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky and stay by my cradle till morning is nigh.
Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay close by me forever, and love me, I pray;
bless all the dear children in thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with thee there.
With “Away in a Manger” running (and running… and running… ) through my head, it’s easy to focus on sweet baby Jesus, laying calmly in a bed of straw, never making a fuss even when he wets his swaddling cloths. That Jesus is easy to love. He’s non-threatening, making no demands on my time or resources. Baby Jesus doesn’t ask me to give up my pet sins. He doesn’t ask me to love the unlovable. He doesn’t ask me to lay down my life for His sake.
Do you celebrate Advent? Growing up outside the church, I looked forward to Christmas because of the cookies we’d make, the decorating we’d do, and, most of all, the pile of presents I expected to receive Christmas morning. Christmas was great, but it had nothing to do with a baby born in Bethlehem.
Once I became a Christian, Christmas took on new meaning, but I still didn’t really understand Advent. After all, the word isn’t even in the Bible. We attended a Presbyterian church for a while, and they lit candles and said some prayers those four Sundays leading up to Christmas, but I didn’t know how to “own” Advent for myself. (One thing I did know: it probably didn’t require a Smurf Advent Calendar!)
There are 22 more days until Christmas, and most of us are juggling to-do lists, shopping lists, budgets, and calendars, trying to fit it all in. How did this become the norm for advent? Somehow, somewhere, we’ve gone horribly wrong.
Enter the [Advent Conspiracy] (yes, the cute little brackets are part of the name). While most of us acknowledge the problems of a commercialized, frenzied, over-committed, hollow shell of a holiday that has lost its heart, they have a cure. Click on their logo to watch their short video. At the very least, you will be inspired, and this might even change the way you do Christmas!