The 3 F’s of Thanksgiving are family, feasting, and football. It is amazing! And maybe your family isn’t necessarily the people you would love to be around, but at least you can still stuff your face with mashed potatoes and turkey while watching organized violence. I love Thanksgiving, and this glorious holiday kicks off the most wonderful time of the year. It is our family tradition to pick up our Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving. By sheer self-discipline, we have held off playing Christmas music since Halloween, but now we let it blare. The sounds of Christmas songs by Michael Bublé, Frank Sinatra, and James Taylor fill the house. The tree gets decorated, and hot chocolate, Christmas treats, and family movies become routine.
But I don’t just love the holidays themselves - I love the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. There is a joyful anticipation and excitement for what is to come. That season should be a picture of the life of a believer. Christ died and rose again, bringing redemption and new life - this fills us with gratitude! And He is coming again! We live in the in-between, thankful for what has been accomplished and with joyful anticipation of what will be fulfilled. We can look forward to his coming because of his forgiveness. The two are connected and should shape our life in between.
But as Christians we have to be careful we don’t just get swept up into the secular holiday season. Santa Claus, presents, watching Elf over and over again, or whatever your favorite Christmas movie is. I love Christmas trees, presents, decorated cookies, and holiday music just as much as anyone, but there is deeper meaning, and deeper joy offered, and we must do the work to rise above the cultural rhythms of the season to truly celebrate.
This time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is known to the believer as Advent. Advent simply means “coming,” and it is the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. It is a time of purposeful waiting - waiting in expectant anticipation for the coming of our savior, our king. Since Genesis 3 God’s people have been waiting for the promised seed of Eve to come and crush the serpent. And then one night in Bethlehem that waiting was over at the birth of Jesus. Our savior had come! On his cross he brought redemption to a fallen world beating sin, Satan, and death, rising to new life and giving new life to those who have faith in him. And ever since then God’s people have been waiting again. We are waiting for his return when he will bring judgment and restore this broken world back to God, wipe away every tear, and make all things new. And for that day we wait. Just like between Thanksgiving and Christmas, between Christ's resurrection and his return, we wait. Sandwiched between two amazing events, we wait. With joyful anticipation, we wait.
Waiting can be hard, though. Like a kid still two weeks away from Christmas we can grow restless. But our waiting is a bit longer with an end date we don’t know, and worse than just being restless, we can tend to lose sight of what’s coming. We start to live for lesser things. But Advent is the season that reminds us what our waiting should look like. It is a season of joyful anticipation. Advent is like that drink of water that gets passed to the runner in the marathon race. It refreshes our waiting. It reminds us of the faithfulness of God in fulfilling his promise to come to save, and the excitement of the promise yet to be fulfilled in his return to restore.
So are you waiting in anticipation, or have you moved on, preoccupied by lesser things, in love with lesser things, living for lesser things? What would it look like for you to recapture in your life a sense of anticipatory waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ? By being more intentional, could this year's Advent season help you with that? Maybe you are like that marathon runner that is so fatigued and really needs someone to pass them some water as they keep running. Could this Advent be that drink of water? Does your anticipatory waiting need refreshing?
Advent can be especially helpful in an election year. It is October as I’m writing this and I don’t know how the elections turned out, but what I do know is that no matter who gets elected, it can’t wreck Christmas - not for the believer. We know that no candidate is our savior. No candidate will fix all of our problems. No candidate will restore a broken world. And although I hope you are an active citizen who votes with biblical guidance, I also hope none of us are putting our ultimate hope in the wrong places. We know that Jesus is our savior, Jesus will fix all of our problems, Jesus will restore a broken world, and Jesus is coming. Let’s not lose sight of that. May that be what drives our celebrating, our peace, our joy, our faithfulness, our gratitude. And may we live in anticipation for the coming of our king.
Here is a suggestion for applying this over this Advent season: Recite Revelation 21:1-5 every day of Advent, November 27 through December 25. Start each day and end each day with those five verses. Build your excitement for what is to come. Commit to memorizing these verses and recite them to your family on Christmas Day. I hope we will be refreshed with a joyful anticipation for the return of our Lord this Advent season.
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Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”