One of the debates I see played out amongst my friends each year on social media is what I call the Christmas tree debate. Just when is it acceptable to drag out your Christmas CDs, decorations, and set up your tree in front of the living room picture window? We smile somewhat at this familiar conundrum but it seems each year the debate gets even more heated, perhaps one tier below our concerns about whether Russia interfered with our election process. I read comments from friends who dread hearing ‘Sleigh Ride’ played ad nauseum in supermarkets and shopping malls beginning Thanksgiving Day. And I don’t blame them. When I was home to see my parents a few weeks ago, I shook my head in frustration when a local radio station advertised its seasonal format shift to Christmas music exactly one week prior to Thanksgiving! Many of my friends had pictures of their trees on social media on Thanksgiving, one with the defiant comment: “We put our tree up today! Sorry, not sorry!” And who can blame them? In a world that appears to be immersed in utter chaos, in a climate of hostility to those who think, believe, and act differently, who wouldn’t be parched and thirsting for some Christmas joy?
We live in a culture that doesn’t like to wait. When we Americans see something we want, we just go out and get it. If we don’t have the money saved up quite yet, we heed the invitation of the credit card companies who ask us, “Why wait when you can have it now?!” But I would argue that this goes against the natural order of God’s creation. Have you ever wondered when reading the beginning of Genesis why it took God seven days to create the universe? When you think of the awesome power of God, the likes of whom we cannot even conceive in our finitude, it seems strange that creation wasn’t ready made the instant the ‘Big Bang’ occurred. Yet everything in creation requires a time of gestation: canyons took millions of years to be formed by rivers of water; the oldest known Sequoia tree is said to have taken 3,266 years to grow; babies are not ready to be delivered at conception, it takes nine months of being swaddled in the womb before being ready to be held in a mother’s loving arms. I would say that it is a part of God’s order to wait.
In our gospel lesson today we hear Jesus say to be on guard and be alert which in its simplicity presumes a period of waiting and watching. In the passage just preceding this one we hear Jesus tell a parable: ‘Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place.’ I would say that we need the period of gestation to prepare. Many new parents are probably grateful for a time of preparation for the coming of a newborn child: time to buy clothes, time to prepare a nursery, time to learn about the changes this new being will bring to their lives. And I would say this is why we need Advent, a period of waiting. We need time to recollect, remember, and prepare room in our hearts for the Christ child who comes to us at Christmas, because Jesus changes everything! And while we cannot foresee how God’s glory will work in our lives, we can make room for the new possibilities and hope that Jesus will bring into our lives. Advent is about preparation and making room for the one who knows no boundary of time.
So I leave the question open to you as we spend time in retreat at the beginning of this Advent season? What do you need to prepare for Jesus arrival? Why wait?
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