This is the season of Advent. For too many people Advent is merely the preparation time for Christmas -- and indeed this consumer-oriented culture of ours tends to push that Christmas preparation earlier and earlier. Advent is more than that. Advent is a season which could stand on its own; and in fact I once heard a leader of a worship workshop declare, "The only thing wrong with Advent is that it is followed by Christmas."

Advent reminds us to live our lives with what I call "relaxed expectancy." Advent literally means "to come" and this season reminds us to prepare for God's coming into our lives. Of course this includes preparation to celebrate that Christ did come and to live in expectancy of his coming again. Even more, Advent means living our lives in a kind of quiet, relaxed, confident expectancy that God's presence is continually coming, always arriving, and surprisingly sure. For those who are attentive and aware, God's reign is indeed near us, among us, and within us as Jesus told us (20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." -- Luke 17:20-21).

Alex Haley, the author of Roots, describes it similarly. He quotes his grandmother, whose great faith inspired him to look for his African roots. His grandmother, he says, would respond to any difficult situation and any apparent absence of God in such difficulties by proclaiming: "The Lord may not come when you expect him, but he will always be right on time."

So, relax and enjoy this season. If we are indeed celebrating the Incarnation, that means we can trust God's coming. Don't let the hurry and hassle of pre-Christmas keep you from enjoying a time of Advent, a time of relaxing and expecting to find God's presence coming near. I wish you not yet a Merry Christmas, but an Advent filled with faith and expectation of God's presence in your life.

from Bishop Michael J. Coyner