The Church calendar reminds us that we are in the four-week season of Advent. The word, Advent, is derived from the Latin word, Adventus, meaning “coming” or “arriving.” This word, Advent, invites us to receive the good news that our hope, peace, joy, love and ultimate salvation in Christ Jesus is coming and on its way. As the once mute Zechariah, the elderly priest, joyfully sings “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and in the shadow of death.” (Luke 1: 67-69)
Many Christians during these days leading up to Christmas light Advent Wreaths. This spiritual practice often includes the reading of a daily devotional and the lighting of a wreath of candles arranged in the shape of a circle. The circle symbolizes eternity and wholeness. These wreaths have at their center a “Christ” candle reminding all of the gift of salvation that is coming and available for everyone.
Lighting these Advent Wreaths as the December days grow darker teaches us of the holiness of waiting, longing, and looking for the “coming” and “arrival” of God.
For me, the most difficult spiritual practice of this season of Advent is found in the invitation to slow down and wait. Waiting is difficult for me. Waiting reminds me of my limitations. Waiting reminds me that I am not in control. Waiting teaches me that I am dependent upon God and others for life.
On a more positive note, waiting encourages and invites me to know that hope, peace, joy, love and salvation is not something I can earn, achieve, buy, or attain all by myself. I am slowly discovering that waiting helps me realize my deep need for God.
When and where have you found yourself waiting in recent days? What are you waiting and longing for most of all? Have you found yourself anxious or even troubled in your waiting?
I wonder what would it look like for you and me to reframe our waiting as something of a spiritual practice? What would it look like in your life or your family to rediscover some of the ancient practices of the Advent season which invite us to look for God in our waiting?
Some simple ways to practice the sacredness of waiting in this season of Advent include:
• Lighting a candle.
• Take a walk thinking about the unusual travels of Joseph and Mary. While walking pray for your neighbors.
• Slowly read one of the ancient Hebrew Psalms such as Psalm 25, 62, or 63.
• Take five minutes to breathe in the promise of this day, knowing that God’s grace and mercy endures forever.
• Read the words of Zechariah and Mary found in the Gospel of Luke 1 and think about the way God cares for everyone on this planet.
• Write a note of gratitude.
• Send a text of encouragement to a friend.
Most importantly, the Advent season invites us to take advantage of every moment where we find ourselves waiting.
Dr. Cory Smith is the Senior Minister of Auburn United Methodist Church. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, The Candler School of Theology at Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. He is married to Alicia, and they have one daughter, Sarah Morgan.