Hopefully, we have all had a good holiday this past week and weekend, celebrating Thanksgiving with family and friends. Some of us have traveled distances to be with loved ones. Some of us have gathered with those we haven’t seen in awhile. Some of us spent time alone or with just one or two others. Some of us experienced a time of sadness mourning the loss of those who are no longer with us.

Holidays, as one of you reminded me, have a tinge of bitter and sweet. So many memories, some good and some not so good. If we’re honest with ourselves, this is a common theme for many.

Now we are heading into the liturgical season of Advent this coming Sunday. Advent is an interesting time as it is not so much a season of celebration, as anticipation. Advent calls us to wait expectantly for a change that’s coming. A change we have hoped for. A change that will make lives better. A change that has the potential to make all things new. For all that we are hoping for, mostly Advent calls us to wait.

We all know Christmas is coming, and we anxiously await its arrival. We count down the days until its here. We decorate and festoon our homes. We lay out our finest displays. We shop, we bake, we party. We simply can’t help ourselves. We begin the partying as early as possible, and it seems we don’t quit until New Year’s. My friend Hadley’s birthday is December 1st. He has famously said he celebrates the entire month of December! How glorious, to celebrate the entire month. Kudos to Hadley.

Advent, however, doesn’t call us to celebrate, it calls us to wait.

We aren’t a patient people, we’re ready for an all out celebration. A celebration that lasts and lasts. So much we want to do, so many people we want to see. Surely it can’t be contained to just Christmas Day. Its going to take us longer than one day to fit in all we have planned.

And yet, we are called to wait.

Its really kind of an odd thing. We see all the trappings of celebration, we even participate in putting the trappings in place. We resonate with the phrase, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly.” We are so ready to “Fa La La La La La.”

I would say to us, there is value in waiting. There is value in restraining ourselves just a bit. Waiting builds excitement and intensity. Waiting gives us a chance to reflect on what is coming. Waiting gives us an opportunity to consider the deepest meaning of Christmas.

The season of Christmas is supposed to bring a change from what has been, to what can be. What has been is a time of deep divisions among peoples. What has been is a time of war, and destruction, and death. What has been is a time where anger and animosity have had free reign to dig deeply into the hearts and minds of many. What has been is a time where the lowest have been brought lower, and the highest act oblivious to those who are not among those they associate with. The season of Christmas is supposed to bring a change to what has been. With Christmas, we are supposed to see and participate in a peace that pervades all that is. With Christmas, we are supposed to see real progress in addressing the needs of those without. With Christmas, our hope is supposed to be heightened for a better way for all. With Christmas, joy is to be found again. With Christmas, love is the new language we are encouraged to speak.

You see, waiting isn’t so hard after all. Waiting gives us an opportunity to truly contemplate what peace, hope, joy and love can mean in today’s world. During our time of waiting, we have the chance to formulate in our own minds and souls how these gifts can truly make a difference.

Having waited with expectant and prepared hearts, when the day of Christmas finally arrives, we are prepared to BE the very essence of this holy season. Only by embodying the true aspects of what Christmas represents will we be able see the change in our world we long for.

Go ahead, plan for your parties, your gatherings, your festivities, but in your heart continue to wait and prepare for the grandest and best celebration when Christmas finally arrives.

Your companion on the Way,

Pastor Tom

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