There is a time in the liturgical Christian calendar called “ordinary time”—it is that time between Pentecost and the first Sunday of Advent and the few short weeks between New Year's and Ash Wednesday. The rest of the calendar is peppered with events. Each of these events is surrounded with tradition.
Tradition is important. We set up traditions to help us remember, to mark the passage of time and to tighten our sense of community. Like any event with three purposes, it is easy to lose focus.
Advent is about anticipation. What are you doing to help the people in your congregation anticipate Jesus this Christmas season?
How do you anticipate Christ’s arrival? Merriam Webster's dictionary tells us that to anticipate is to “expect or look ahead to [something] with pleasure.”
There are times when life just seems hard. It can be in those seasons where we see lots of death or in the stretching seasons, when opposition comes from every direction. In those times, we are tempted to pull into ourselves and search for support from family and community. We might even look to the past, remembering “wins,” hoping that one will come again soon.
The Christmas season’s most powerful lesson is the anticipation of Christ (Advent). The people of Israel heard nothing from the prophets for roughly 400 years. Their faith seemed like a ritual, and God far away. Yet many continued to faithfully attend to worship and anticipate the Messiah.
Can you imagine a desire so consuming that you create the provision in your mind? The Israelites anticipated a military Messiah—instant freedom from their captors and validation. When Jesus showed up, even those who believed in Him waited for Him to reveal His military agenda.
When you are buried by bills, pressure and bad attitudes, how do you anticipate Christ’s arrival?
1. Practice thankfulness. Thankfulness is the foundation for true joy. Thankfulness is not gritting your teeth and choosing thankfulness. Instead, thankfulness looks for God’s presence and celebrates it.
2. Expect the unexpected. Jesus didn’t arrive as a victor but as a babe. He didn’t heal Lazarus but came when all hope was lost with a much greater prize in mind. He let the disciples row all night and then terrified them, walking on the water like a ghost.
3. Look for the signs. The wise men knew to look for Christ’s arrival. They saw His arrival indirectly, as the stars announced it. When Christ shows up, we can see the results often before we sense His presence.
4. Worship. The only way to be where you need to be when you need to be there is to keep the lines of communication with God open. We open ourselves to hear His voice best when we worship.
How will your practice of Advent help you anticipate Christ during the difficult times in the year ahead?
Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a master’s degree in theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach and can be found online at deepimprints.com. She writes a regular column for ministrytodaymag.com.