Come, thou long-expected Jesus
We have a firm “No-Christmas-before-Thanksgiving” rule in the Hawkins home. For those of you who are reading this with the twinkling lights of a well-established Christmas tree in the background, that’s fine. I get it. I don’t have anything against early decoration. But we are a turkey-before-tree, yams-before-yule, and carols-after-cranberry family. Part of that is because Thanksgiving holds a special place in my heart as the last holiday I spent with my mom before she died. I want to savor the memory and savor the one holiday I spend with that side of my family. But the other reason is because the Lord is constantly teaching me patience, and this is one way I can practice waiting for something. In fact, I spend the entire month of December in that season of waiting. Today, I want to invite you into that practice of waiting with me.
Sunday, November 27, marks the beginning of Advent. Advent is the church season where we remember that God’s people waited centuries for the coming of Jesus, we anticipate the celebration of the birth of Christ, Christmas, and we long for the day when Christ will come again. It is a season marked by hope and longing. We long for the day when Christ will make all things new, for the day when as the Revelation 21:3-4 promises, that he will live among us, and we will be his people, when he will wipe away our tears and death will be no more. How I long for that day! But it is not here yet, and so we wait.
Here at Chapel Hill Church, we observe that wait by lighting one candle of the Advent each week and reflecting on a weekly theme. There are also other little areas where we can practice waiting. If you have an Advent Calendar with little windows hiding chocolate, each day as you have that one little bite of chocolate think about how that one bite anticipates the celebration feast on Christmas day. (Yes! I am encouraging you to eat chocolate as a spiritual practice.)
I am also encouraging you to start small. Don’t overdo it. I’m preaching to myself here…I LOVE celebrations, I LOVE parties, and I LOVE creating memories. I am absolutely the person who would fill my calendar and yours with a different Christmas-y thing every day of the month…I’d become Buddy the Elf. Full transparency, even writing that sentence caused me to get up from my desk and go find a candy cane. I’m also in danger of swinging the pendulum the other way and overdoing my advent observance; ask me about the year that I decided to read the book of Isaiah every day for all of Advent. A good follow-up question to that is to ask me how long I stuck with reading a 66-chapter book every day for a month.
I want you (and me) to be realistic in our approach to Advent. Waiting and longing for our Savior, is more marathon than sprint. Don’t run yourself ragged before December 25. You’ll be too tired to celebrate!
There are a lot of great books out there with daily Advent readings. I like to try something new every year. This year, our family is using a tool from The Common Rule that is all about creating habits of waiting. I encourage you to download the guide for yourself at the embedded link above, but I’ll give you a quick preview. One of the things that I love about this tool is that it can be as simple as practicing four daily habits, or you can add on things like a playlist and a Carols party…and it’s all free! The guide incorporates four habits: Kneeling Prayer, lighting a candle, Scripture before phone, and no phones while waiting. All four of these habits along with the guide help us consider how we love God and our neighbors, and how we live between those places of celebrating and waiting. I can tell you that the Scripture before scrolling is going to be the toughest one for me. However, as I’ve looked ahead in the guide (because I wanted to make sure I could give you all my wholehearted recommendation), I found that these habits are already growing my sense of anticipation for Christ’s advent, it will grow my desire to be a light in the darkness, and it will make the celebration of Christmas even more sweet. I hope it will do the same for you!
And so, we join with the ancient cry of the church saying, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Let us wait on him together.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.
“Come, Thou long expected Jesus”. Text: Charles Wesley; generally sung to the tune “Hyfrydol” by Rowland Prichard.