Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas isn’t the same without Advent journey

Some years ago a prominent megachurch pastor preached an electrifying sermon that he concluded with a memorable phrase: “Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!”

Soon the phrase was heard in sermons across the nation. A gospel song was eventually written featuring the phrase and it has become popular in many Christian circles.

“Get Ready! Get Ready! Get Ready!” could very well be the heralding as Christians around the world prepare in this Advent season, to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

Advent is marked by two markedly different responses, waiting and preparation. The former is passive, the latter active. Yet they need not be mutually exclusive; there are virtues in each.

Some waiting is passive. The Christian is not involved in any activity or any particular preparation, but simply waits. The preparation might be inward, requiring no outward routine, no visible sign of movement. It might be silent, reflective and meditative. It could be a time not of communal but solitary prayer.

Time to ponder
These special moments and times remind me of the way Scripture records that Mary’s heart pondered what she had heard. Just she and God.

Most Americans don’t like waiting! We don’t like to wait for a traffic light to change or to stand in line waiting to be served. Many expectant parents don’t like to wait nine months to learn the gender of their new infant! Waiting can be a bit of a challenge.

What I so like about Advent is its purposeful waiting. Whether positive or active, it is not stagnant. Something takes place in the period of “not yet.” We wait, but we are not idle. Or at least that is the hope of Advent.

Advent is a time of preparing the heart. It is a time of prayer and song and Word. And yes, it is a time of gift purchasing and decorating. Of heart pondering and silence.

In a few short weeks Christmas will arrive, but Advent can make all the difference in how it is received.

Missing out
I remember one year when I simply missed Advent. I was out of the country for nearly a month, and was so focused and absorbed in the assignment that took me from home and the normal activities of December that I really lost track of time. In fact, I do not recall preparing at all for the great Christian celebration.

I returned home two days before Christmas. Exhausted from the long trip back to the United States and the changing of time zones, I slept the better part of two days. Like Rip Van Winkle, I finally awoke, but when I did, it was Christmas Day.

I never quite caught the Christmas spirit that year. There was something missing. It was Advent! I vowed never to miss Advent again.

I have learned something about special trips, especially those taken with my family. The journey itself carries a special gift, with unique experiences and memories. In a real sense, the journey prepares us for the destination.

So each year I look forward to the journey of Advent. And when Christmas Day finally arrives, I am ready! I am ready! I am ready!

--by Retired Bishop White, Endorsing Agent for Chaplain Ministries and bishop-in-residence at Candler School of Theology.

God Is Still In Control!

Miss Lladale Carey
Web Content Producer

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