Editor’s Note: Advent begins on December 3, 2017, and we thought this classic blog post by Rick Hamlin was a good way to mark the occasion.
A few years back, on the last day of November, lugging my bag through an airport, I listened to the piped-in music in disbelief. Someone was telling me about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, a drummer boy was playing his drum “rumpumpumpum,” and Nat King Cole alerted me in rising crescendo, “O night divine/O night when Christ was born.”
“Hey, buddy,” I wanted to say, “O Holy Night is still 25 shopping days away.”
Am I such a Scrooge that all these signs of Christmas, the red bows on wreaths, the tinsel-garlanded trees, the lights dripping from eaves, the Santas climbing down chimneys, feel premature? Sure, I love Christmas, but the next time I hear a loudspeaker in November wishing me a merry one, as well as a jingle bell rock, I’m tempted to respond, “Happy Advent!”
You can keep all those garlands and sparkling balls and twinkling lights, but don’t take away Advent. Don’t give me the Christ Child in the manger just yet. Advent means waiting, and waiting is rich, fertile ground for prayer. When I send my mind through that long list of people I’m praying for, I do it in great hope, waiting for the miracles that will come to them, the miracles that are already working out. Why rush things?
Christmas is a great spiritual feast, but I like being reminded of the long wait beforehand. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” said John the Baptist in the gospel of Matthew. “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son,” said the angel to Mary. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel,” said the angel to Joseph. These were huge things to contemplate. I like to think about them before I celebrate “O Holy Night” or sing “Away in a Manger.”
The best things often come after a long wait. Prayer is waiting in expectation. “Let me wait,” I want to tell Nat King Cole and whoever is roasting those chestnuts. Let me ponder hope, let me work on love.
You can celebrate Advent with us and get a special thought and prayer every day leading up to December 25 by joining our 2016 Advent Prayer Program here. Prepare ye the way of the Lord. It makes Christmas all the more joyful.