It’s December, which means it’s the glorious time of advent. Hallelujah!
I love the sense of expectation and hopefulness in this month – a sense of expectation with which days on the calendar are slowly crossed off and doors of advent calendars are opened.
As I won’t be at home for Christmas this year, I’ve had time to reflect on what this time really means and is about. I don’t have an advent calendar being opened, there’s no Christmas meal in Birmingham to await, and there’s only going to be a small window of time with family. All this means that my focus is inadvertently being fixed more on Christmas as the celebration of our Saviour being born and less as tradition that’s fixed to a particular places and particular people.
It may only be December 5th, but I’ve already done a lot of thinking about advent, so here are some thoughts!
It starts with rest
Advent is a time to rest. At this time we reflect on all that God has done, read familiar passages about shepherds and magi and Bethlehem but still find ourselves in awe. We look back at a baby and declare that he came to save us. There is so much rest to be found in this truth, in the beauty of the unexpected nature of grace and its source.
I’ve just come back from a couple of days away with my Cambridge church family, the HT clan. I am so grateful that I have a God that knows my capacities, who has decreed rest as part of how his people should live.
On Saturday morning I was reading in Hebrews 4, which was so fitting for where I was at. The title of the chapter is ‘a Sabbath-rest for the people of God’ and verse 11 says simply:
‘Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest’
So I did, and I found this weekend to be full of rest. I slept, chatted, worshipped, laughed, decorated gingerbread, went on go-karts, prayed, learned, listened and also very simply just was. I am so grateful for the wonderful people I spent this weekend with, they are family, they take me exactly as I am and love me for that and nothing more and nothing less.
They also give me good gifts like thermal gloves (which is 100% what I both wanted and needed, thanks Katherine) and hugs. Thanks for all the love and all the help to rest ❤
There is Celebration
Advent is also a time to celebrate. We rejoice because God came to dwell amongst us, and because continues to choose to be present with us.
Some of the best times this weekend revolved around celebrating what God has done in each of our lives, and also being able to celebrate what he is doing now.
In particular, there was a session on the spiritual gifts of prophecy and tongues. We spent time listening to God in small groups and then sharing with one another anything God said. I was so encouraged by this time. I can’t really go into detail about this here because there’s just too much to explain (if you know me in real life, please ask me!). What was shared with me strongly affirmed the prophetic words I had received earlier in term (which I wrote about here) – I was amazed by what I heard, and delighted by the ‘fun’ of the impossibility of it!
I am just overwhelmed by the fact that the God who orchestrated the events we reflect on during advent is also so set on loving me and pursuing me, to the point of revealing himself and his plans for me on an individual level. And really prophetic words are a really small part of his showing his love for me, for the events of advent, the resurrection itself, were all about his being set on loving me. He left heaven just to get me.
The prophetic shows God’s presence with us in the now. And advent is a time of celebrating God’s presence with us. What an amazing thing to be able to celebrate! Through the presence of God we find fullness of life! Love in its entirety, peace that surpasses understanding, a hope that doesn’t compare. No wonder my HT pals are smiling 🙂
We are moved to action
Advent is a time to act. One of the songs we were singing this weekend had the line ‘lead me in your love to those around me’. When we worship it isn’t about us, it’s about bringing glory to the One we love, and readying ourselves to serve. We aren’t to keep what we are celebrating to ourselves, instead we are to be selfless in sharing the love that we know. The story of advent is one to share, and the love of advent is love we are to show.
Yesterday morning, in the C.S. Lewis devotional book I’ve been following, was a passage about ‘Dressing up as Christ’. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer and start with the line ‘Our Father’, we are taking the place of Christ in approaching God as father. But where Christ had the same mind and will of God, we are merely ‘bundles of self-centred fears, hopes, greeds, jealousies, and self-conceit, all doomed to death.’ (How much I relate to that).
As Christians, we are given the undeserved honour of approaching God as our father. And in advent we are reminded every single day that it is Jesus’ birth that has allowed us to approach the throne of God with confidence. This reminder is also a calling to follow Christ in dealing with God the father by seeking out and being obedient to the will of God, and that means acting in love even when that’s hard.
So it is that I ask that this month is a time of seeking to live more like Christ, growing in love and learning how to let everything I do be shaped by what the Lord did when he came to live among us. That this time of advent is one of rest, celebration and action.
In this time of Advent
draw us together to rest,
that we may find the peace
you gave through Jesus
and the love that sustains our lives.
In this time of Advent
draw us together in celebration,
that the hope with us
might be the song of praise we sing,
echoed in the way we live our lives.
In this time of Advent
draw us together to action,
that the path we follow
might lead us out from the stable
into telling others of eternity.