Christmas is less than two weeks away and many of us are busily preparing for its arrival. For several weeks, my staff and I have been addressing the details of that season, especially our celebrations on Christmas Eve. Our Sunday School children are working hard to prepare for their program and our outreach ministries are keeping us focused on ways to bless others.
Personally, our family, like so many others, is making its own preparations for the celebration. Food and presents are being purchased, plans to be with family are being made, and some decorating has begun. There always seem to be more details than time, but even that craziness is part of the preparation.
Things and events that really matter require preparation. A great holiday with family rarely springs forth from planning the day before. In fact, when we neglect or procrastinate our preparations, we are usually forced to make other, less desired arrangements. Yet, with adequate planning and action, we can find all that we need and maybe even a little more. Then, when the celebration arrives, we are able to enjoy it to the fullest.
This is the reason for Advent. Despite the carols being played in grocery and department stores, the Santas we see everywhere, and even the numerous manger scenes with the baby Jesus already present, we are not celebrating Christmas yet. We are preparing for that celebration, and it involves much more than scheduling and decorations. The season of Advent is a preparation of the heart and spirit; a getting ready for what God is about to do in our lives and the world. Yes, we know that the birth of Jesus already took place historically, but in preparation for celebrating that event, we make ourselves ready for his continued arrival in our world and look toward the day when he returns in final victory.
It is tempting to leap ahead and miss all of the waiting, but part of the blessing is found there. Like the blessing of delayed gratification in so many other parts of our lives, waiting for the full celebration of Christmas makes its celebration all the more special. It also gives us time to reflect, to contemplate, and to make ready the mangers of our hearts for a fresh experience of the Incarnate God in our lives.
I know it is tempting, but can we be patient and wait? Can we avoid scouring our spiritual homes to find our presents early and not peek at those wrapped gifts awaiting Christmas Day? It may be hard, but it will be worth it when, like children rushing down the stairs to see the magical display, we embrace the revelation of God with wide-eyed wonder. May we be blessed in our giving and receiving, but also in our waiting.