Sunday, November 27, marks the beginning of the 2022 Advent season. Advent is a four-week period of praying, perhaps fasting, reading scripture and anticipating our Lord’s birth on Christmas Day. Similar to Lent, it allows time and a sacred space in a busy season to contemplate the coming of Christ and the miracle of the incarnation. It seems that every year now is filled with chaos - from the political realm to family life, to churches, to world events, and especially in the personal realm. Anxiety and depression are at an all "time high in our nation and it doesn’t look as though that will change anytime soon. The cares of this life should drive us to seek the Lord in a fresh way, and advent is the perfect time to begin doing so. The church has always seen Advent as a period of waiting – an intentional observance that helps us avoid what Stanley Grenz calls our culture’s “drive through Christmas” attitude. We throw ourselves into the frenzy of preparations for Christmas, but often fail miserably in taking time to prepare our hearts for the Lord’s birthday. In one sense, Advent helps us identify with the Jews of Jesus’ day. How long they had waited for their Messiah! Still, with the exception of Simeon and Anna, the birth of Jesus was unexpected by most of them. Yet almost every divine promise has a component of waiting and anticipation, which is an integral part of faith. Observing Advent puts us in the big story of Christ’s coming, the longing of the Jews, the promises of the prophets and then the celebration of His birth. The hymn “Come, O Come, Immanuel” expresses the longing of the Jewish heart for God’s deliverance of His people. When we sing “Joy to the World!” we rejoice in the fulfillment of God’s long-awaited promise. In observing Advent, we are praying with millions of other believers across the world and those throughout the history of the church who have diligently sought to grasp the miracle and meaning of the incarnation. For many, this season is one of indulgence. For believers though, Advent provides a desperately needed perspective and respite from the craziness. It also serves as a reminder of the next coming of Christ, as we live in the “already but not yet”. It's important to note that there is an important distinction to make in our waiting. Waiting is not resignation or giving up in disappointment. It is waiting with anticipation - that God’s Spirit will move and He will fulfill His promise. Waiting on God is not a passive act, but an active one. Several years ago, I attended a Christmas parade with my daughter, Wendy, and granddaughter, Halle who was about six years old at the time. The parade was for kids and featured various cartoon characters on floats, huge balloons and everything else a child would want from a Christmas parade. Halle was beyond excited to see her favorite cartoon character, Chili Willie, who was one of the stars of the parade. We stood for at least an hour in our spot, straining to hear any music, drums or signs of the coming excitement. We were chatting with others around us when Halle started jumping up and down and squealing, “The parade is coming! Chili Willie!” Sure enough, if we listened closely enough, we could hear the distant sound of marching drums and music coming our way. There was even a far away glimpse of Chili Willie, making his Christmas parade debut. The parade finally arrived, multiple photos were taken, and a good time was had by all. I’ve thought about Halle and that parade as a picture of our waiting. At some point, all of us end up in God’s waiting room, where there is usually standing room only. Waiting for our Lord to provide financial needs, to draw the lost to Christ, to bring the prodigal home, to heal a physical illness, repair a broken relationship or whatever we most yearn for. Halle waited in joyful anticipation of the parade and never doubted that Chili Willie would most definitely appear. Shouldn’t we wait in the same way? We wait in faith for the second Advent, just as the Old Testament saints waited for the first one. As we move closer to the return of our Lord, we can hear the faint sounds of the parade. One day the parade will arrive, and Christ will return in glory. But for now, we rejoice in eager anticipation that our waiting will one day be complete, and His promise fulfilled. There are so many excellent resources to use during this season. For years I’ve used a devotional edited by Nancy Guthrie, entitled “Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus”. Guthrie uses short and readable devotional thoughts from trusted theologians such as Luther, Spurgeon, and Calvin but also includes works by John Piper, Tim Keller and Joni Eareckson Tada. She also has an excellent devotional for families, “Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room”. The app “You Version” has many Advent devotional plans that are free and easily accessible. Advent calendars also fill in the details of the story for kids and emphasize the promise of Christmas. Whatever resources you use, in observing Advent you will be challenged and blessed as you keep your mind and heart stayed on the birth of our Savior, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. We’ve never needed Advent more than now. May you and yours be blessed and strengthened this Advent season. This blog was first published in November of 2020.