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There is a house on one of my normal driving routes with an inflatable snow globe in the yard. Actually, there are more homes than you might think in the Harrisonburg area with these inflatable decorations, but this home in particular has the BIG ONE! Their front porch is decorated with green swags and red ribbons, but the centerpiece of it all is the huge inflatable snow globe! The thing is, as I write this, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet!
Stores all around the community have been stocking their shelves with Christmas decorations and gift items since mid-October. It seems like even Halloween is starting to get pushed to the side! And now, on a daily basis, my mailbox brings me another catalog or two filled with all sorts of wonderful items to purchase and the reminder to order now so that everything will arrive by December 25 th! My guess is our community isn’t a whole lot different than many others in this country.
The whole world seems to be rushing toward Christmas, yet December 1 st, much less the first Sunday of Advent, hasn’t even arrived! There’s an urgency, a rush, a push, to get to the “most wonderful time of year.” The time when store clerks wish you “happy holidays” instead of just to “have a nice day,” when people seem filled with the Christmas spirit of good cheer, and when the Salvation Army bell greets you throughout your shopping trip.
But it seems to me that when we rush to Christmas, we miss something. We miss the waiting. Before everything amazing and wonderful, there is always the waiting. When couples get engaged, there’s a time of waiting until the wedding. Pregnant parents wait nine months to see their new child. When churches call ministers and missionaries, there is a time of waiting. But this waiting is not empty, it’s filled with expectations, with hope, with preparations, and with dreaming about what’s to come and what might be. And it’s the waiting that makes that actual happening so magnificent, so out of the ordinary, and so special.
Isn’t that how we should celebrate Advent? Not by getting caught up in the rush to Christmas, but by savoring this time of waiting, of preparation, of hope, of expectation. As we wait, why don’t we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s coming into the world? Let’s dream about what this Child’s coming could mean for all of us! Let’s put our hope in the One who is always faithful and true!
When we journey through Advent in this way, approaching Christmas as ones who wait in expectation of what God is doing, we discover how much God is already knit into the very fabric of the world and our lives. We slow down enough to see that God’s love is already dwelling in and among us. And we discover what God might want to say through Jesus’ birth.
An article in the December 2005 issue of Messenger sums up my hope this Christmas. Ken Gibble writes, “I hope for you and for me, as we draw nearer to the day on which we celebrate the birth of the Christ child, that we will watch and listen for God in the common places, in the simplest, earthliest things.” Perhaps the season of Advent and the whole Christmas story shows us that “God wants to tell the world something about divinity, that the place to look for the holy is in the commonplace.”And so, may each of us find the Christ Child this Christmas, not in the excessive wrappings, decorations, and expense, not in the hurried and harried rush, but in the humble stable, the light of a candle, the smile of a stranger, the beauty of a sunrise, and the love of family and friends. And I pray that when we do, our hearts will be ready, places prepared for the King of kings and Lord of lords, the Prince of Peace!