This past Sunday marked the beginning of the season of Advent, the four-weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus. Advent, derived from the Latin word Adventus, means "the arrival" or "the coming." The purpose of this season is to prepare us for Jesus’ coming.
In this season, we find ourselves preparing for "the coming" of many things: Initiation, finals, internship/study abroad opportunities, and of course, holiday parties with friends and family. Preparation is a large part of our lives. Imagine if you didn't prepare at all for your finals. Maybe your pull off a few decent grades because of an easy class, or shear luck. But it's a good chance that you wouldn't do very well; you might even fail a class or two.
Or imagine if you waited until the day before Christmas to buy a meaningful gift for your mom. Who knows what's left on Target's shelves at 11pm on Christmas Eve? You have just become the posterchild for #ChristmasFail.
Our preparation is evidence that we care about something. And the converse, lack of preparation, shows a lack of care. Advent invites to explore what's really in our hearts. Do we actually care about Jesus' coming or is it just another day of the week? So what does it look like to prepare for Jesus' birth?
Today's devotional comes from the New Testament book of Romans, a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Rome.
Read this passage several times, talking with God about what you notice.
11 And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.
Spend a few quiet moments asking yourself what God might be speaking to you through this passage. What is his invitation for you?
During a time of the year when sunlight is quickly declining, the author Paul invites us to press in to the daylight. But to do this, we must leave behind our life in the darkness. During this season, I often want to hang out in the darkness, e.g. sip a little too much egg nog and hide in my house watching too much Black Mirror. Anything to escape reality because holidays are complicated for me.
After 42 years of marriage, my parents recently divorced. My sister and her family live all the way across the country from me. And it's often during this time that my issues with depression and anxiety threaten to pull me under. It's very easy for me to numb myself with booze and binge watching, biding my time until the holidays are over.
But God invites me to remember that his son, "the light of the world" who came to live among us and remove the darkness, has come and will come again. For the last several years, I've intentionally prepared for Jesus during Advent. I make an Advent wreath, lighting a candle each Sunday to mark the time. And I intentionally look for ways to get out of the house, seeking the light of Christ through good friends who love me well.
As Paul says, "the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed."
Salvation is here. The freedom, peace, and wholeness that I so desire in my fractured world has come and will come again. Jesus provides renewal, hope, and freedom now. And he will provide it again. This is what Advent invites me into. That bottle of wine provides a cheap relief that lasts only a few hours. But Jesus' presence provides freedom for the whole of this life and the life to come.
So what's in your heart? How is God inviting you to prepare for his coming?
Give me a candle of the Spirit, O God, as I go down into the deeps of my being. Show me the hidden things, the creatures of my dreams, the storehouse of forgotten memories and hurts. Take me down to the spring of my life, and tell me my nature and my name. Give me freedom to grow so that I may become that self, the seed of which You planted in me at my making. Out of the depths I cry to You...