This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, which is in many ways the forgotten season. Once Halloween is past, the stores and commercials all jump to Christmas sales, barely pausing to remember Thanksgiving. Christmas carols have been playing in the malls and stores for many weeks already. Part of the commercialism of Christmas is this rush to get everyone to buy, buy, buy – and it tends to hurry Christmas into our minds and hearts.

Advent comes along as the forgotten season of the Christian Year, and Advent reminds us to slow down, to wait, and to prepare. Often we think of “preparation” for Christmas as rushing around, getting things finished as quickly as possible, and being glad to have it all over with. Advent reminds us that there is One who is “to come” – and the lengthening days of December remind us that His coming is Light in our Darkness.

Advent is a season about waiting, preparing, being silent in the midst of the noise, being patient in the midst of the rush, and looking for the coming of Christ in the unexpected ways and places of life. Advent reminds us not to hurry Christmas, even in the church where we too quickly start singing Christmas carols, having Christmas parties, and working ourselves into a frenzy with Christmas preparations. Often as a pastor I was too easily caught up in this frenzied preparation, to the point that one of my staff members called me “Bah-Humbug” for my attitude one year during Advent. It was a good reminder that Advent is a season which can also be enjoyed, savored, and experienced as a helpful counter-cultural option to the Christmas rush.

So I encourage you and your church to listen to the scriptures of Advent, to sing some of the beautiful songs and hymns of Advent, and to allow this season to prepare you for the One whose coming did/does/will mean Light, and Joy, and Hope, and Love.

Before I wish you a Merry Christmas, let me hope for you a Blessed Advent.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner