‘Tis the season. Christmas songs are on the radio. Trees are decorating the stores. Lights will soon be on houses. Children (and probably some adults) are sneaking around trying to get a peak at this year’s Christmas gifts. ‘Tis the season. And we have been thrust into it.
Sure, it’s an exciting and pleasant season. It’s the season to be jolly and joyous. Anyone contrary is a mean ol’ Scrooge. For many, it’s a charitable season. Giving in the church seems to increase around this time of year. It’s the one time of year many show concern for the poor by giving to the Salvation Army or donating gifts to families of prisoners.
There is nothing wrong with any of these things (except the fact that many acts of charity seem to end on December 31). However, there is a season preceding Christmas that often goes ignored. Of course, I am speaking of the season of Advent. Advent is the season in the church calendar where expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ is the focus. It looks to the coming of the Messiah. Many of us probably understand Advent and often practice the season in various ways with our worshiping communities at church. However, I have recently begun to question how much we allow the meaning of Advent to penetrate our everyday lives?
The Christmas season, in the midst of all its wonderful joy and happiness, has become a reminder to me of the trouble our culture has with waiting. I see this come out in myself as Christmas approaches. I admit, I get excited when radio stations switch to 24-hours of Christmas music. One song I often hear played seems to nail how we as a culture feel: “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute, we need a little Christmas now.” We don’t want to wait for it. We want to experience it, at least in part, right now. Unfortunately, this cultural treatment of Christmas has become another symptom of our addiction of instant gratification.
Even more unfortunate, this addiction is just as rampant in Christians as non-Christians. This is due in large part to the lack of discipline in the everyday life of the Christian. Discipline is seen as limiting and not freeing, another lie told from the desires of instant gratification. If we find that we either cannot or have trouble waiting, our desires have become uncontrollable. Desire affects the will and the will affects action. In its darkest sense, this is seen in molestation and rape. Likewise, the desire for material things leads to uncontrollable spending habits and acquisition. Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
I find that my inability to wait drives me further and further away from a lifestyle of simplicity and generosity. Furthermore, my delight in God is lessened because my desire for God is split among other things.
This is why I need Advent. I need a time of waiting. I need discipline. There are too many material things my heart desires. It is easy for me to acquire more and more unnecessary items in my life.
Instead, I need Advent to penetrate my life. I need a time of waiting. In the midst of a world that works so hard to tell me what I should desire, I need a time of discipline to keep my desires under control. The practice of simplicity in my life helps to rid those things that distract me from delighting solely in God.
We easily make excuses for the things we want and enjoy in life. Seldom, if ever, do we make excuses for practicing simplicity or waiting. It is a shame that many people in the church do not feel the need for simplicity and treat it as if it is a lifestyle preference. Certainly I struggle with the very issues I raise. That is why as this season of Advent approaches, I want to find ways to begin practicing the discipline of waiting. Will you join me? How might we begin to have a sacrificial attitude toward the “things” around us, so that we might live as a people who wait on the Lord?