Tomorrow we will put up the Christmas tree at our church. We gather together with a few faithful members and put it together, piece by piece, ornament by ornament. Thankfully it’s a pre-lighted tree. At least we don’t have to go through that struggle. The tree is a huge visible reminder that the church’s hopeful season of Advent is upon us. It’s my favorite time of the year.
I don’t take that lightly, or say it without a great deal of thoughtfulness. Other times of the year are great. But the month of December, and Advent, soar above the others for five wonderful reasons. Each of them can be summed up in one word.
- Anticipation. The church’s season of Advent is all about anticipation, looking forward, waiting for the ultimate to come to fruition. From a spiritual standpoint, it’s looking forward to the coming of Christ at Christmas; but also to the ultimate and final arrival of Jesus when He comes again to deliver His people fully and finally. But it’s also a season of human anticipation as we look forward to family, friends, and the opportunity to show our love for people by exchanging gifts on that most special of days.
- Music. Some of my favorite hymns of the entire church year are Advent hymns: Prepare the Royal Highway, On Jordan’s Band the Baptist’s Cry, and Rejoice, Rejoice Believers and Let Your Lights Appear. I’d put these hymns up against most any from any other season of the church year. More than that, we begin to hear Christmas music on the radio and in the stores, many of which I enjoy (though I’d be happy if a few of them would go away forever…I’m talking to YOU All I want for Christmas is You).
- Hopefulness. Advent means “arrival.” The kind of hope I have as a Christian is a certain hope. It’s an expectation. It’s not the kind of hope American’s think about when they say: “I hope such and such will happen.” It means I firmly know and believe it’s going to happen. Just as certain as Jesus came to Bethlehem’s manger, He will come again to restore me and all things. I have a most certain hope that this will happen.
- Thoughtfulness. It seems to me that in these weeks before Christmas, this Advent time of year, people are much more mindful and thoughtful toward others. Food banks fill up. Blood banks receive far more donations. People are more pleasant and complimentary. Thoughtfulness is much more the order of the day, it seems, than late February or the dog days of summer.
- Ambiance. Things look more special at this time of the year. Not only is the Christmas tree up at church. People start putting lights up on their homes. Restaurants and stores decorate. Even people seem to dress up more during this season. The ambiance almost all around us is pleasant and festive.
I’d encourage you to look and listen the next few weeks. See if you find yourself with more anticipation and hope. Listen for the sounds of the season and receive gratefully the thoughtfulness of others. Pay attention to the festive ambiance and decorations.
What do you like about this time of year?