I’m a mom. And a children’s minister. As such, I have the double occupational benefit of access to some wisdom that much of the population lives without. So what better way to let you in on the secrets of Advent than to share some of that out-of-the-mouths-of-babes wisdom here in the devotional?
Children know about waiting. How often are they told, “You have to be patient,” or “Just a minute!” or “I’ll get it in a second” or “Not until after dinner”? More times than they can count, I’m sure. At least in my house they are. So I interviewed a random nine-year-old (ahem) to get his take on this season of waiting.
Me: What is Advent all about?
Random Nine-Year-Old: So, Advent is the season before Christmas, and it’s like preparing for Christmas. And during Advent we light candles to like symbolize…[whispered] what does it symbolize?…well, we light candles on wreaths…[whispering again] what does it symbolize, Mama?…Well, it’s just a time for prayer and to prepare ourselves for the birth of Jesus Christ and the celebration.
Me: Why do we need Advent?
Random Nine-Year-Old: Like I said, it’s preparing for Christmas and preparing our hearts…like, a time of prayer, just for preparing for Christmas, really. You don’t really realize the true meaning of Christmas when you don’t really think about it for a while. It’s not just about presents and stuff, it’s like actual Christmas.
Me: What do you like about Advent?
Random Nine-Year-Old: It think it’s fun because we get to light the candles and it’s good to have a time of prayer to prepare ourselves for Christmas.
Me: What do you pray about during Advent?
Random Nine-Year-Old: That’s a hard one. I don’t know. It’s not something I usually pay attention to.
Me: Why candles and not rocks or something?
Random Nine-Year-Old: The candles are to symbolize how Jesus is the light of the world and maybe how he sacrificed himself for us? Wait, don’t write that last part down.
Me: How do you feel about waiting in general? How does waiting make you feel?
Random Nine-Year-Old: I’m generally pretty impatient, so it makes me feel annoyed by…waiting is annoying. But Advent isn’t annoying because you get to do stuff, you’re not just waiting in line to do something boring.
Maybe some of those nine-year-old’s answers make you chuckle. Or maybe, like me, you hear more of yourself in those answers than you’d like to admit. Waiting, preparing, praying, candles–that about sums it up, right?
Perhaps it does. But perhaps, if we choose to spend this season with a different kind of focus on our candles, we’ll experience the Light in a way we haven’t in past years. You know how when you stare into a light for a length of time, the image of that light stays in your eye after you look away? That’s called an afterimage. Maybe we should all pray that the light of those Advent candles burns our retinas with an afterimage that lasts long past this Christmas season this year.
Perhaps, if we pay even a little bit of extra attention to how we pray together as a church, we’ll hear God’s still, small voice in a way we haven’t before. Have you ever noticed how much better a whiny, restless, sad toddler listens to a whispered response than an impatient, yelling one? Try it sometime: just whisper quietly to a crying child. Maybe we all need to keep in mind that the still, small voice should be the one that drowns out the noise of the world and our own whining, this Christmas and all year.
And perhaps, if we’re feeling impatient to get on with Christmas already, we can choose to be grateful that “we’re not just waiting in line to do something boring.” I pray that this season of waiting will be anything but boring for each of us and that we will experience the light and joy we’ve anticipated more fully than ever in waiting so [im]patiently for it.