Advent this year added an experiential dimension of waiting for me. My previous observances have been more about thinking about the season and going to activities. My twenty-something only child moved to Texas in September. For the first time, she was not around for all the pre-holiday preparations. After our first Thanksgiving apart, I marked the calendar counting down the days until she would arrive the Sunday before Christmas.
During that month, my husband and I made plans for sleeping arrangements, food and family get togethers. We communicated with her via text and email and phone to be sure her fiancée would feel at home when the spent time with us. As the time of her arrival grew closer, our excitement grew.
I “felt” Advent in a new way. I realized that the seasonal customs are meant to help me look ahead expectantly to celebrating the arrival of Jesus as an infant. The living metaphor engaged my heart in a new way. While American consumerism and even mindless traditions can distract and cause more stress, this year I minimized where I could and focused on activities that helped me reflect more on what Christ’s coming means to me.
While checking bedding, buying groceries and checking with relative’s schedule, I had in mind the relational time with my daughter. I knew certain “traditions” my daughter would value; quiet times with just the three of us, our “wake up” talks as well as car time conversations as we visit with friends.
As I scaled back on baking, made gifts more personal than impressive, I looked for moments in the midst of holiday chaos to meditate on how special Jesus’ coming was. I paused at Nativity scenes, stars and angels. I wondered how pregnant Mary’s very first Advent felt. I am continually awed that God became flesh. I am amazed he chose to live among humans who use religion to impress others or to prop up their shaky self-esteem. I am daunted that he would choose to live in poverty, be homeless and be available to masses of people. When Jesus was living as divine-human, he was subject to human emotion, exhaustion and expectations. Why would God take on all of the challenges of being human? We all know “the answer”: God so loved the world. How often do you consider what means Jesus went through all that because God wants to be in a relationship with you?
This relationship is not like my distant aunt in California. This is like my daughter and I who enjoy each other’s company, talk about everything and want time with just the two of us. Of course we text, phone, email, send pictures and share Pintrests. When together, we enjoy just sitting together, sharing memories and planning for the future (a June wedding).
God also wants us to spend time with him. Not just in a church crowd, though like a party, that is enjoyable. He also wants to hear from us about what we are thankful for, our memories of how God has worked in our lives and our hopes and plans for the future. God treasures the intimate times with us. God waits for us too.
While we wait at Advent, we could focus more on our relationship with God than the activities of the season. We wait for the transformation that takes place in us when we spend time with God. We wait to see the fruit of the Spirit more in our lives. We wait to celebrate the King who was born in a barn so we could live as children who are immeasurably loved and cherished.