a guest post by Bailey Suzio (thethinplace.net)
My first Advent memory was when I was a little girl. Our church asked my family to come up and light one of the advent candles on the wreath in Sunday morning service. I don’t remember much other than my mom running around, making sure we all looked decent and coordinated before we left for church. We stood up there in our Sunday best while my dad lit the candle then we went home and that was the last I thought of Advent for many years.
I have always been wildly impatient but rarely is it more expressed than at Christmas. Christmas always overshadowed Advent. The moment Halloween ends and the clock strikes midnight, I am bursting with carols, glitter, and celebrations galore. I liked taking the full season to celebrate and get my fill of jolly before the new year set in and it all went away.
But all that changed a few years ago when I moved away from my hometown for my husband’s job and started working for our church there. This was a much more liturgical church than we’d ever been at before and they took the Church Calendar quite seriously. So when Advent came around, our service was different, more focused on waiting and longing for Christ to appear.
This longing was new to me. I grew up always celebrating the birth, never remembering the years of anticipation that led up to that glorious day when Christ was morning. Waiting was a little awkward and I wasn’t quite sure how it fit into the joy of Christmas. But the next year, I decided to embrace this season in the Church Calendar and see how it went.
I went out and bought some taper candles and a wreath. My husband looked at me warily as I began to set up our table and announced that we’d be lighting the candles each night at dinner when we prayed. My pastor recommended a special devotional book and I took time each morning to cultivate a sense of longing and anticipation for Christmas morning.
Worship on Sunday mornings was heightened with a new understanding of what was happening. When we sang, O Come, O Come Emmanuel, I found myself longing not just for Christ’s first coming, but for His return. I was united with believers from Adam and Eve on in praying and waiting for the arrival of God’s redemption.
When I embrace the wait, I find my Christian experience validated in a unique way. Advent causes me to stop and realize that much of Christian history is the story of God’s people waiting for their Messiah. His time on Earth was short and now, we are once again waiting for the fulfillment of His promise to return.
I used to shy away from this waiting. I wanted to remember the fulfillment of God’s promise in Christ without longing for the promise of Christ’s return. But Advent causes me to hold this waiting in my hands and stand with generations of believers in crying,
Come, Lord Jesus, Come.
Since that first year, Advent since then has looked a little different. Some years, I’ve done all of my Christmas decorating before Advent even begins. This year, I’m holding off a little longer and embracing the wait. I’m reading through the words of the Old Testament prophets who longed for the Messiah. I’m spending time in the mornings reading through what the birth of Christ meant and longing for His return. And every morning I’m praying with a new vigor,
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.
If you are looking to something to help shape your Advent season this year, join me over at The Thin Place and download a copy of my free Advent devotional His Name Shall be Called. This book is filled with Scripture reading, daily challenges, and encouragement for each day from the first Sunday of Advent right up to Christmas morning.
Bailey’s journey began in Michigan, where she grew up as the oldest of 10 (yes, ten) children, and has led her to Hawaii and back again with her husband and two dogs. After spending a few years in Hawaii working for a local church, Bailey developed a passion for Church history and the liturgical calendar. She loves drinking excessive amounts of coffee, collecting old books, and camping. She writes at The Thin Place about her faith, hospitality, and fertility journey.” (www.thethinplace.net)