Advent is a time of anticipation. We spend several weeks waiting and longing for that Christmas day when we celebrate the incarnation. During Advent, we do our best to live as fully as possible into the hopeful and yearning spirit that we imagine the people of God had before the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.
Pastors preach about the coming of a child and all the anticipation that comes with birth. We sing festive songs about how all creation has need and groans for a messiah. Volunteers spend hundreds of hours building programs of all sorts to help us be intentional about looking forward to the Christ child.
I’m about to become a father with my first child. We’re currently expecting a delivery to occur around Christmas. If ever there were a time to understand the depths and richness of Advent you would think it’s right now as I await the coming birth of my own son. After all, I’m actually living in Advent.
You had told me this is the opportunity I’d receive then I’d also think I’d become a pro at anticipating Jesus and celebrating Advent. I mean, why wouldn’t God use the experience to make me a super-Christian? Right?
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
In fact, the biggest thing I’m grasping is the knowledge that I’m actually pretty terrible at anticipation. I’m down right wretched at Advent. Sadly, when it comes to standing in awe at a coming miracle, I constantly get distracted.
I’ve spent a lot of time buying baby things like car seats, clothes, diapers, books, toys, monitors, and more. I’ve been reading on what to expect while I’m expecting. I go to doctor appointments and put ultrasound pictures in frames on my desk at work. I’m doing a lot to prepare for this little guy.
Yet, for all my preparations I continually find myself thinking about myself. In my attempt to anticipate my son I actually lose sight of him and become focused on myself. I wonder what kind of father I will be, what kind of husband I’m currently being, how I’ll pay the bills, how my Father raised me, what I need to improve on, what I lack, what I don’t have, what I can’t do, and so on. I try to get my life in order so I can better order myself around my son but that’s not really working out.
Funny enough, I’m realizing that when we orient ourselves around the Son we begin to find our life being put in order as he transforms us. We spend time and money on church programs, preach anticipation, sing songs of longing for a messiah, and yet in all of our preparations and busyness we often lose sight of Jesus and the miracle of his incarnation to the point where we are glad the trouble of Advent is behind us and we never rightly sat in the presence of the Christ child. We do so much to ensure we seek Jesus but end up blinding ourselves to him in those efforts.
The closer I am to meeting my son the more I realize I simply want to be in his presence. I don’t want to miss a moment. I don’t want to look in the mirror more than his face and I don’t want to worry about my life more than I give thanks for his. Then I realize that I’m learning a lot about anticipation. Yeah, I’m bad at it, but we all are. It’s not our efforts at improving our ability to anticipate that will bring us closer to Jesus. It is Jesus’ very coming that will draw us near to him.
I’m drawn closer to my son by his arrival not by my preparations or self-evaluations. In his arrival I’m brought to my knees and to the awe-filled gratefulness that I couldn’t muster with all my time and money. In the same way, Jesus, the Son of God, draws us all close to him by simply arriving. We’ve never been able to muster the ability through programs, songs, or sermons to truly be with Jesus. It has only ever been by his work that we’ve been brought near and transformed. Only through Jesus’ work do I finally see my self-obsession, my preoccupations, and my shortcomings. Only in Jesus is all that also made right.
Preparations and self evaluations are wonderful but I’m finding that there comes a time to simply be still, unafraid, and in a posture of receiving so that I might truly experience the incarnation by being present with Jesus. I’ve always failed at Advent despite my intentions and efforts and Jesus has never failed at Advent despite our intentions and efforts. It is there that I rest for it is in this truth that I can trust Jesus to show up in my life just as I can trust him with preparing me for meeting my son Wesley.