On Saturday morning I was flicking through my Facebook feed when I stumbled upon the following by Ian Spear, which had been quoted in a post by Pete Greig:
A D V E N T
Tomorrow, the church will observe the dawning of a new year. Advent is not simply a prelude to Christmas. It’s a time when we look for and prepare our hearts for Christ’s return, for His Second Advent. While our culture insists that we “hurry,” Advent invites us to be still, to watch and wait.
The lectionary prayer for the first week of Advent begins, “Unexpected God, your advent alarms us.” More than anything, this prayer captures the spirit of the season. In Advent, we confront the stark reality that God is breaking in on our world. And we must ask ourselves: are we ready for Him? Have we prepared ourselves, our families, and our churches for the coming of God, for what the prophets called “the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Mal. 4:5)?
The trouble with our cultural “holiday season” is that our lives become filled to distraction, so consumed with trivialities and to-do lists that we leave no room for God — only to be caught unawares when He breaks into on our world again.
This, ultimately, is what Advent is about: waiting for God and, in our waiting, making room for Him in our lives and hearts. As the lectionary prayer continues:
“Wake us from drowsy worship,
from the sleep that neglects love,
and the sedative of misdirected frenzy.
Awaken us now to your coming,
and bend our angers into your peace.”
I pray this prayer over my own family this season, and I pray it over you, too.
Also this week, in preparation for My opening Advent sermon, I found this prayer at the end of an Advent sermon by Rev. Dr. P. C. Ennis:
Forgive us, O God, for ever thinking of peace on earth only as a Christmas postscript.
Contemporize, we pray, your incarnation for us in our time. As the Savior’s birth once startled an ancient world, so startle us with the reality of your presence in our midst. As your word first brought shepherds and magi to their knees in adoration and caused the angelic hosts to sing your praises, so may our celebration this season be marked by humility, praise, and hope.
Break through, we pray, the hardened crust of cynicism and disbelief, and open before our trusting eyes the full splendor of the Christmas story in all of its fullness, a promise of joy and peace. Suspend our sophistication long enough to enable us to see the world as a place where miracles do happen, where a Savior is born in a stable, where peace is possible, promises abundant for all, and where there is no longer any reason for fear anywhere on earth. And so, O God, may your word become flesh anew in today’s world, to dwell among us, assuring us that no fear or sorrow, sin or suffering can ever separate us from your love, and that no enemy of your purposes will ever ultimately prevail…
Both pieces were a great reminder, to me, of the importance of this time and this task of watching, waiting and anticipating. Both pieces are worth sharing here.
May we each watch, wait and anticipate with great hope this Advent, and may we each witness the full splendor of the story as it unfolds again before our eyes, ears and open hearts.