Maybe It's Ok if Advent Looks Different This Year

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Advent and Christmas catalogs began to arrive several months ago in my church office. New Advent bulletin covers, new Advent candles, new ideas for decorating the sanctuary for this year’s Christmas candlelight service. With a sigh, I put the catalogs aside; a normal Advent season seemed too much to hope for. How can you prepare for something that may or may not even take place? After eight months of failed worship planning due to COVID-19, I felt miserably stuck with no energy to prepare for anything. 

Webster’s Dictionary defines preparation as: “the action or process of making ready or being made ready for use or consideration.”

As we enter the beautiful season of Advent, how are you being made ready for use by Jesus? 

The year 2020 has been a year of waiting. We are waiting to see and hug our family and friends. We are waiting for a safe time to celebrate weddings and birthdays and anniversaries and graduations. Even in years when we aren’t in the stronghold of a pandemic, seasons of waiting are always with us. We wait for that great new job, we wait for a diagnosis, we wait for healing, we wait for God to show up and show us the next step to take.

In Eugene Peterson’s book, This Sacramental Life, he writes: “we are enlarged in the waiting.”

As you wait for Advent and Christmas, as you prepare for this special time of year, are you finding yourself being “enlarged in the waiting” or do you find yourself stuck…waiting for something to happen, waiting for a change to take place so you can do something and move forward. 

I am blessed to be the mom of an adopted son. It took my husband and I four years to adopt our son. First, we saved up the money to adopt. Next, we began the application process. Finally, we began the most agonizing part of the journey…the waiting. Reports and pictures of our son were sent to us, updates were sent to us, news of other adoptions reached us, but none of those were the baby we so anxiously awaited. During the time of waiting for our son to arrive in the United States, we could do nothing to hurry up the process. No amount of phone calls, letters, or emails would make the gears grind faster. We simply had to wait and we simply felt stuck. However, when I look back and reflect upon that time of waiting, I see how God brought us closer to him and to each other as we relied on his perfect timing and provision to see us through. 

Perhaps during this season of Advent, as we wait for the Christ child, we too are being blessed, even during a pandemic. Can you see it? Can you feel it? Do you hear God’s calling to slow down, to breath deeply, to rest on him as you wait expectantly and assuredly? Maybe it’s OK if Advent looks different this year. Maybe it’s OK if our expectations and plans need to change. Maybe it’s OK to embrace this season with a different attitude, an attitude that gives God the reins and relies on his timing. 

So, what will Advent and Christmas look like this year in your church? Will you find a new plan that will allow you to navigate through the uncertainties we’ve all faced for the last eight months since the coronavirus arrived? Even if your Advent and Christmas celebrations are different—even if you need to pivot at the last minute—one thing is for sure: God is in control and he wants us to grow through the waiting. 

Written by Marianne Giebel, Administrative Assistant for Resonate Global Mission’s Central USA region

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