The Wonder of Advent

As a child, I would eagerly await the arrival of December 1, the day we could start opening our Advent calendars. The thick, paper calendars – imported from Europe by my mom who’d spent most of her childhood there as a missionary kid – featured festive winter scenes, sparkly glitter and 24 doors with cute pictures behind each one. My brothers and I would take turns each day, fighting as siblings do about who opened the first day and who got to open Day 24 (which was always an image of baby Jesus).

On the four Sundays leading up to Christmas, we observed an Advent ceremony. We’d gather around the table, dim the lights, and light the corresponding candle on our simple Advent wreath, repurposed from the top of a four-legged stool and decorated with pine boughs and pinecones. We’d read verses corresponding with that week’s theme – HOPE, JOY, PEACE or LOVE – and then sing a few carols and pray. 

I brought the tradition of Advent into my own family, and my kids, though almost grown, still fight over who gets to open the first and last days on our calendar (although I also get them the ones with chocolate behind each door, so everyone is happy). We light candles in our Advent ceremony each week.

The wonder of Advent is the anticipation. The nation of Israel had waited centuries for the Messiah to come and save them. The people knew the prophecies and eagerly looked for His arrival. Christmas is the celebration of Jesus’ birth; Advent celebrates the longing, the hope of ancient Israel. 

Living in liminal space is uncomfortable. Yet there’s also raw beauty in waiting, in longing for a better future, in anticipating a promise given yet not fulfilled. With Advent, we rejoice in a God who is with us in the waiting, who knows our longing and who always keeps His promises (Psalm 40:1). And we join in the ancient longing for a better future as we eagerly await the perfect eternity He has promised for His children.

Jesus, The Hope of the World

Hope. It’s so easy to lose but so generously available. We need hope. In a world where uncertainty and disillusionment are mixed into the air we breathe, we need a fresh perspective. For centuries people hoped for the coming Messiah—Jesus, the Savior of the world. He...