Advent is an invitation to more than checking days off until Christmas. It’s an invitation to take stock of our souls, to prepare our hearts for celebrating the One who has come and will one day come again. It’s a season of preparation. I need this. Maybe more than ever this year.2018 has been a mixed bag for me. Yes, we’ve had some incredible and fun moments. But, on the whole, I’ve felt a little more disconnected from people and a lot less accomplished than the previous few years. I’ve found myself asking God almost every day for deeper knowledge of Him … because life just sort of feels uncertain and precarious. I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why but I just feel a little undone most of the time.
Which leads me to why I’m so sure I need Advent this year. There is something about this season of preparation for the coming King that rekindles me, restores me, and reminds me of what I’m doing and why I do it.
Many of my fellow Southern Baptists didn’t grow up with any sort of Advent tradition. But I did. I loved the “Hanging of the Greens” service and the weekly lighting of the Advent candles in our church. And my two favorite services at church are Christmas Eve and Tenebrae.
For me, Advent is an invitation to see the world beyond myself. To join in the eternal song of salvation and the celebration of this miraculous “Word-Made-Flesh” who came to tabernacle among us. Greg Pennoyer writes, “When we cut through the sentiment and marketing to the spiritual riches of Christmas, we recover not only a sense of who God is, but also we we are as human beings. Such a recovery cannot happen in a day.”
Advent, preparing for the coming Christ, takes time.
It takes space in our already crowded calendars. It requires additional discipline in a season of unrivaled chaos. But, it’s worth it.
Maybe you’re a little like me. You’re struggling with being at the end of a year that feels just disappointing. Or you’re wrestling with an uncertainty about what direction you need to take in 2019. Perhaps you find yourself in a wilderness season, wondering where God is. Or you feel a little unseen, unimportant, or unnoticed.
Friend, I understand. I really do. It’s about 99% certain I’m working through at least one of these every day.
And that’s why I’m leaning into Advent, the season of preparation. I’m asking God to prepare me — not just for Christmas or for 2019. But to prepare my heart to know Him more, to long for Him more, to desire nothing but Him.
Advent isn’t just about 24 days of family traditions or activities. In fact, Advent isn’t really about any of that at all. Advent is an invitation to “take stock of our souls and be at our best when the special day arrives” (God With Us).
Take stock of our souls. That sounds serious, doesn’t it?
One of my favorite December practices is reading through the Gospel of Luke, a chapter a day from December 1 through December 24. I begin the month reading of Elizabeth and Zechariah and the familiar Nativity story. But as I move through the days, I’m reminded of the miracles of Jesus, the healing and forgiveness of sin. I bump into the disciples and their humanity as they jockeyed for power and tried to understand what it meant to follow Jesus. And finally, as Christmas Eve arrives, I find myself with the women at the empty tomb and the disciples on the road to Emmaus. I’m captivated again every year by the appearing of Christ to His disciples and the moment when He ascended back to heaven — but with this promise that He would return.
Christmas Eve always begins for me with a reminder of the One who came and will one day come again.
And thus, my awareness of the need for preparation, for taking stock of my soul. That evening, I’ll join with my church for a quiet Communion service. We’ll take the bread and the cup and we’ll remember the One, born in a manger and hung on a cross. The One who came and will One day come again. And in that moment, I’ll whisper the simplest prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come.”
My prayer for me and for you and for all of us is that we’ll be taking stock of our souls, preparing our hearts. So that we can truly know the joy of celebrating the God-Made-Flesh, Emmanuel — God with us.
P.S. Come back tomorrow and I’ll be sharing some of my favorite resources for preparing my heart and taking stock of my soul during Advent.