I hate to wait on anything or anyone. I do my best to hide my impatience (and perhaps my sense of entitlement), but most of the time even a three year-old can see the edginess written all over my face. But of course, there are times when I have no other option but to wait. All the complaining and cajoling do me no good. And if I can just accept the time of inactivity as a season of preparation for something I otherwise would never be able to know I actually come to see that on most occasions the arrival of the cause for which I was in limbo turned out to be more than worth the wait.
These four weeks before Christmas constitute such a time for anxious and hurried souls like me. Our tendency too often is to think of the Advent season as a less than significant time on the Christian calendar, one that pales in comparison to the big event of Christmas. Granted, the message of Christmas towers above so much of Christian devotion with its good news of God’s coming down to be with us in the Bethlehem baby, the only exception being the resurrection hope we celebrate at Easter. But these Sundays of Advent, when taken seriously, remind us that as we anticipate God’s glory drawing near to us in the infant Jesus, we should be paying closer attention to the many ways in which God’s Presence continually interrupts our humdrum everyday existence, infusing it with hope, peace, joy, and love. While it may seem at times as if life itself is fraying at the seams, Advent gives us the opportunity to consider how God has promised not to allow our existence to lapse into absurdity and shows up when we need Him most in order to renew our flagging spirits and calm our exasperated souls.
We begin our Advent celebration at Mountain Brook Baptist Church this Sunday with two inspiring worship opportunities. At the 9:00 hour, we will observe our annual Hanging of the Green, which is a worship experience designed to help us appreciate how the Sanctuary decorations are more than pretty accouterments; they are symbols of what God’s Incarnation means to our everyday life. At the 11:00 hour, we will have our annual Glorious worship experience, where we look at God’s plan of salvation from Creation to Incarnation to Resurrection to Consummation. It is an overview of salvation history that points to Jesus as the fulcrum on which all of God’s redemption promises are brought to pass.
I normally don’t encourage people to attend both worship experiences, only because aside from the music, the sermon is the same (even though the experience itself is quite different). But on this first Sunday of Advent I would. Regardless of which worship service you normally attend, incorporating the other hour would be a good way to begin your Advent observance. More than a means of occupying the time, it would be something you could do to enhance your waiting, and it would also be an expression of your hope (the first candle on the Advent wreath) that God always shows up just when we think we have reached the end of our ropes.
“As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master and as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, until He is gracious to us” (Psalm 123:2).