Advent: Taking a Breath

Advent is a season of anticipation. There’s the anticipation of Christ’s birth, and with it, the anticipation of his Second Coming. And all the more, there’s the anticipation of everything that the holiday season brings with it–the food, the shopping, the errands, the food, the cards, the food…

Often, the holidays are an insane time for us. Well, sure, isn’t it for everyone? There’s all the holiday parties, the shopping, the various church services, all the obligations of the season. And for me at work, layered on top of that is the fact that OMB’s passback of the next President’s Budget always occurs the week after Thanksgiving, and can linger well into December as we work towards final settlement. Late nights, stress, unpredictable days… And this year, of course, I’m taking two classes at seminary, both of which will wrap up in the middle of the month, with all that entails.

And yet? The early part of Advent 2018 has been surprisingly…calm.

In one of our classes, we’ve been talking about (and I’ve been convicted by) keeping a Sabbath, creating a dedicated time of rest in God. Sabbath?!? Are you KIDDING?!? Have you SEEN my to-do list?

But yet, I feel God is breaking through with a word of rest, a word that reminds me that my to-love list had better be more important than my to-do list. Case in point: We reached settlement with OMB in a surprisingly early, and easy, fashion this year. We didn’t have any ridiculously late nights at the office during passback week itself, and since then things have gone fairly smoothly. I might not have to stress at work this year!

And! The two classes I have are pretty well in hand at this point. For Old Testament, I have an essay due Sunday, and a discussion board posting to make. For Vocation of Ministry, I have a final paper, an essay that just became optional (!), and a quiz, but all those will be done by the 14th. I might not have to stress over classes this year!

And! With the unfortunate passing of President Bush, I even have an extra day off to  do things, yes–but perhaps to rest a little too! As I did: Starbucks in the morning, Christmas decorating in the afternoon, and smoking, slowly, a rack of ribs for dinner tonight. A leisurely pace.

Now, I know all this can be knocked aside in an instant. Work can get crazy again, or it’s harder to finish classwork than I anticipate, or any of a hundred other things could crop up. But y’know, for today, I’m able to rest. I’m able to be at peace, and I can see God’s hand at work in teeing up a wee bit of Sabbath for me.

Thank you Lord. Come into your Sabbath. Come into your world. Just…come. Amen.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come

It’s Advent already. Phew. Wasn’t it just Labor Day? Wasn’t Easter about two weeks before that? How is it we made another lap around the sun already?

There’s the old joke about how wrong it is to be surprised that Christmas is around the corner: after all, it hasn’t moved off of December 25th in hundreds of years. And yet each year I find myself making plans to be better prepared to have a more meaningful Christmas, only to have them dashed against the rocks.

I think there’s two places I go awry at Advent each year. One is in just the sheer busyness of the season, and getting caught up in everything that’s “expected.” Here’s this weekend, for example. Saturday morning, Emmaus accountability breakfast with the men who help keep me centered in Christ. Then home to get our daughter to an appointment, then down to get my mom for her own appointment with the dentist at noon. After, a bite to eat, then off shopping for the holidays ahead of the annual lay leadership dinner at church in the evening, before a “mandatory” holiday party at a coworker’s house (“You’ve really got to come!”). Then Sunday is church, grocery shopping, making a batch of chili for the office holiday week coming up, going to help pack my mom ahead of moving next week (!), and then a couple hours in the office (because I didn’t get everything done and it’s a busy season and my boss gets back Monday and will expect things to be Just So).

It’s madness! And yet those are my days and weekends in December every year. Where’s the rest? Where’s the sabbath? Where’s the peace, the joy?

And that’s the second place I go off the rails. My Advent isn’t nearly enough about that ancient prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.” We’re called to devote time each December to remembering the promise that what began in a manger two millennia ago will come to fruition when Christ returns.

“Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:12-13)

Christ promises he will return. And my sin in Advent is I don’t spend nearly enough of my heart on praying for that day, on readying myself for his second coming. Instead I get consumed by the to-do list, not the to-love list. I suspect I’m not alone (OK, I know I’m not). But it remains my goal every year: to live a life more aligned with the prayer, “Come, Lord Jesus, come.”

It’s Advent again. A fresh chance to let my heart turn to Christ. Pray I don’t miss it again this year.