There are only 10 days until Christmas! It seems that society pushes us to get our decorations up earlier and earlier every year. Many of us find it to be a mad rush: cleaning, decorating, shopping, cooking and celebrating with family and friends. Yet, there is a longing in many of our hearts to slow down the pace, and to turn back time to when life seemed slower. Many Christian churches celebrate the season of Advent to help us slow things down.
The word Advent comes from Latin meaning “coming.” The focus of Advent is to prepare for the coming of the Christ to earth at the end of time and to prepare for Christmas, the incarnation, when God was born a child. Advent is a time to encourage us to be patient, to wait, to make time for the Lord in our busy lives.
Waiting is almost counter cultural today! Most of us are not exceptionally good about waiting. We want our coffee ASAP as well as our food to be quickly served. How often have we been frustrated waiting in checkout lines, or waiting for an appointment, or waiting for a text message? So many of us find it difficult to wait for Christmas; some of us even open our Christmas presents early.
Advent is an opportunity to help us slow things down. It is a time for us to patiently wait for the coming of the Lord. As it is said, God’s time isn’t always our time. Imagine the years and years the people of Israel waited for the coming of the Lord. Perhaps we can schedule some time in our busy lives to “wait” on God rather than God wait on us in prayer.
Many Christian traditions do this with the season of Advent, which begins four weeks before Christmas. A symbol used to mark time is an advent wreath. The wreath is circular, which symbolizes God’s eternal love for us. The wreath holds four candles within it. There are three purple candles symbolizing hope, love and peace, and there is a rose candle symbolizing joy. Some Advent wreaths place a white candle to be lit Christmas Eve symbolizing Christ.
This Sunday is the third Sunday of Advent. It is called Rejoice Sunday or Gaudete. In Latin the full phrase is “Gaudete in Domino simper” or “Rejoice in the Lord always,” which is taken from Philippians 4:4. This week we are called to reflect on the source of true joy. Joy is different from happiness. Pope Francis said in a mass: “To be happy is good, yet joy is something more. It’s another thing, something which does not depend on external motivations or on passing issues. It is more profound. It is a gift.”
So even though we may be having happy times during Advent, let us stop for a moment and think about what is the source of our true joy. In my heart of hearts, it is my hope that your joy is rooted in your relationship with our Savior Jesus. Christmas Day we celebrate his birth. Let us let him be reborn in a new way as we prepare for the coming of the Lord.
The Rev. Paul Colling is pastor of Prince of Peace in Kearney.