Difficult as it might be to believe, we are about to enter the season of Advent. The word “advent” is a derivative of a Latin word, “adventus,” which means “coming”. During the four week season of Advent, Christian people prepare themselves for Christmas by centering themselves in the truth that the God of the Ages is a “coming” or “advent-ing” God—a God who CAME to us long ago on that first Christmas night; a God who COMES to us even now through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit; and a God who WILL COME to us one day in the future, when Christ returns for the purpose of completing the Kingdom that he inaugurated through his life, death, and resurrection.
Even as I type these words, I am praying for a prayer for my experience of this Advent season. My prayer sounds something like this:
This Advent, I pray that I will become a little bit like Mary, the peasant girl who made herself available to the strange and life-altering purposes of God. Mary was obedient to God’s disruptive calling upon her life. How might I become more Mary-like this Advent in my sacrificial obedience to God?
This Advent, I pray that I will become a little bit like Joseph, the carpenter who took Mary as his wife even though he did not comprehend all the details of her pregnancy. Joseph trusted in God in spite of his lack of a complete understanding of God’s providential plan. How might I become more Joseph-like this Advent in my trustful reliance upon God, even when I lack a complete understanding of the circumstances that surround me?
This Advent, I pray that I will become a little bit like John, the prophetic soul who baptized people in the wilderness and who preached about the urgency of repentance. John made clear that authentic repentance is the only condition that enables a human heart to accommodate the presence of the coming Savior. How might I become more John-like this Advent in my personal repentance and in my desire to turn away from anything that would compromise the integrity of my discipleship?
This Advent, I pray that I will become a little bit like the shepherds, who left behind their important work in the fields in order to see what was happening in Bethlehem. The shepherds allowed their lives to be interrupted by the activity of God. They left their familiar surroundings for the purpose of glimpsing the holiness of God’s revelation. How might I become more shepherd-like this Advent in my willingness to be interrupted by God’s revelations? How might I step outside of some of this season’s busy routines in order to experience the in-breaking presence of God?
This Advent, I pray that I will become a little bit like the angels, whose joyful outbursts echoed through the sky on that first Christmas night. The angels’ eagerness to adore God bears witness to the urgency of worshipful praise. How might I become more angel-like this Advent in my worship and adoration of God? How might I become more faithful in my rendering of praise to the One whose majesty and glory demand nothing less than my wholehearted celebration?
This Advent, perhaps most of all, I pray that I will become a little bit like Jesus, whose entrance into human history is the incarnation of God’s radical and far-reaching love for humankind. How might I become more Christ-like this Advent in my loving and outreach? How might I incarnate the love of God in new and creative ways for the sake of my family, my friends, my neighbors, my co-workers, and my congregation?
I know from personal experience that, if I am not intentional in my spiritual focus, the days of this holy season may very well slip by me unnoticed. I am committed to not allowing that to happen. I am endeavoring to make this Advent into a season of fervent prayer, quiet listening, joyful worship, counter-cultural obedience, and incarnational love. I am doing everything I can to allow the days of Advent to become a transformational personal journey into the spiritual likeness of the different characters of the Christmas story. That way, when Christmas comes, I will be able to approach the manger rightly, eager to welcome the Christ who comes to us once again.