Advent—Expectancy In Times of Suffering
Advent, Preparing for Coming, While Preparing for Loss
Advent: (noun) fr. Latin “adventus” meaning come
- the arrival of a notable person, thing or event
- the first season of the Christian church year leading up to Christmas and including the four preceding Sundays
- the coming or second coming of Christ
Do you celebrate Advent? Christmas time has become so stressful the thought of focusing on the meaning behind Christmas makes Advent celebrations attractive as a way to redirect our thoughts.
Keeping It Real, That is–True
My husband and I like to watch the Hallmark Christmas specials but this year, it’s been a problem. Nearly ever one we watch goes on, and on, about the “magic of Christmas.” It sounds innocuous but really Christmas has nothing to do with magic and everything to do with miraculous. Christmas ornaments don’t have magical properties, nor do trees, or snow globes. They’re fun but magical. We aren’t going to find signs and wonders in Christmas trappings. The sign, the wonder, was and is the birth of the Son of God in an unglamorous manger, to a poor family. I’ll admit a special star and an angelic choir must have been spectacular but only a few non-A-listers got to see it, not the rich and famous, season ticket holders. There was no red carpet for Jesus. We need to keep truth and fiction separate.
When our children were young we kept an advent wreath in our home. It was a visible symbol, a conversation starter. Now I choose an advent devotional and prayers each year in December. I want my heart ready for the celebration of his birth. I’m not sure where I read it, but someone said, “Jesus seldom gets an invitation to his own birthday party.
I’ve already written about simplifying the usual trappings of Christmas for practical reasons, but I don’t want to neglect my spiritual preparation. I’m not an advent purist. My background didn’t include a liturgically based church but there is something good about keeping my focus to the anticipated coming of Christ both in his incarnation and, as a church, the hope of his return. God says we are to be ready always, despite our circumstances. The Hebrews didn’t know when Jesus would be born, but they awaited his coming. Their circumstances were not encouraging. God had been unusually silent for 400 years. The faithful, like Anna and Simeon, continued to expect Messiah’s coming (Luke 2:21-31). We don’t know when he will return again (Matt. 24:36), but we expect it at any moment. We need prepared hearts as in “let every heart, prepare Him room, and heaven and nature sing…” (there is so much great theology in Christmas Carols, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.”) We can’t get so bogged down in caregiving that we think, “Don’t come now, Jesus, I need to finish taking care of my parent, we’re in a critical phase here.” It sounds silly but if our focus is off, we think things like that.
How to Prepare
Caregiving day in, day out is an exhausting duty. It’s hard to get excited about much of anything when you are “in the trenches.” One sure remedy for our temptation to despair is to focus on God, instead of our circumstances. We face the loss (not just the loss of life but of who they were) or impending loss of a loved one. How do we merge that into days of ongoing caregiving and sleepless nights? I snatch time as it is available. I pray in the shower, in the car, in the night, and while I’m giving care.
When I worked in children’s ministries, I prayed for the children as I cared for them. It was the most important thing I could do. Far more important than any lessons or crafts we did. The same principle applies in caring for elderly parents or ill spouses. Plus it gives us God’s perspective towards those in our care.
Another way we prepare out hearts is in serving others. I know, “that’s all I do all day is serve others.” We do that in caregiving but personally, I want to extend that this year. This morning I read from I Timothy 2 and felt a special burden to pray for other caregivers and those in need of care. We are to bear one another’s burdens. This week my Advent preparation is going to focus on praying for you, my fellow caregivers, whether you are currently giving care or provided it in the past, and for those under your care.
Caregivers are special people and we give thanks for their/our work and for God’s strength to stay the course.
A Lighter Note:
A fun video about Advent with a serious message.
Have a good caregiving day,