Well, the pre-Christmas preparations are picking up. The Hallmark movie channel has been showing Christmas movies 24/7 for weeks. House decorations are beginning to go up and stores are beginning to advertise Christmas specials. In many of our churches the coming weeks are a time of spiritual preparation for the celebration of Christmas. The birth of Christ is the reason for this season and it is not always easy to remember, much less acknowledge that. What then should we do? How should we use this season of preparation that God gives us?

Patience is never easy. During this time of the year we often experience impatience in the parking lots and in the check-out aisles of our stores as people jockey for position or to get that coveted parking spot. But we see it in our own lives as well. In a society where so much can be accomplished by the push of a button and we get frustrated if our computers don’t respond immediately it’s hard to make a case for patient waiting.

The Advent we celebrate flies in the face of much that is going on around us. My family always had an Advent wreath in our dining room. We would light the Advent candles one each week until Christmas finally arrived. It was a visual reminder of the passing of the time. I’ve always found something reassuring and powerful about a small flame burning on a candle. It burns whether we watch it or not, whether we believe it does much to relieve the darkness. I find that God works in my life in just the same way. It is easy to forget about God’s presence and kingdom rooted within me until it bursts into bloom. I need a season like Advent to remind me that even when I do not watch, God is at work. The Advent candles remind me that life is not about what I am doing, but about what God is doing in and through me. The candles remind me to rely on God’s power rather than my own ingenuity. That requires patience, but it gives me a sense of focus when everything around me dictates frenzied activity.

As we enter another Advent season I find myself, once again, needing to take a step back and find some perspective in my life. I need to embrace the waiting, not becoming impatient to get to Christmas because I need to hope more than I need to find the perfect tree. I need to hope that God will make sense of what I cannot. I need to hope that God will work in me when I am not watching. I need, above all, to hope that in the darkness there is light. Through your patience, and the joy and kindness which are a part of this season, allow the Lord to transform you. Then when we come to celebrate Christmas and the great gift of our redemption not only will our house be ready but our heart will be resplendent as well.

The Rev. John Sauer is pastor at Sacred Heart Church.

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