Children look ahead to Christmas with a sense of expectation. They anticipate presents under the tree. Many kids pour over their Christmas list, trying to decide what to ask Santa to bring. Should they ask for something big? Or several small things? For a young child, it’s a big decision.
In church, the season before Christmas is called Advent. It is a time of expectant waiting. We look ahead and prepare for the coming Christ child. Each of the four Sundays in Advent has a specific theme: hope, peace, love, and joy.
Christians who travel on this liturgical road pause at each stop. The Sunday of hope reminds us of Isaiah’s prophecy that God is God and will remain in control. We can look to the future with bright eyes knowing that everything will be okay. The Sunday of peace takes us to a time when all will be well. It’s the peace of knowing God will provide. On the Sunday of love, the gospel lesson is timeless. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Finally, Advent’s expectant waiting builds to the joy God incarnate brings.
The Advent message is inclusive. God loves the world and wants to share joy with everyone—even those who do not agree or believe the same thing. One of the Advent readings comes from Romans 16:25, which refers to the mystery of God’s revelation. It says that even Christ-followers do not know everything.
This year has brought so much pain and division. But each one of us gets to decide what we do with it. Like this year, this holiday season will be different and include more struggles. Some friends or family might have hurt feelings over political differences. People will not be able to travel to see loved ones. Events will be virtual or cancelled. The economy might mean giving fewer presents.
Part of the mystery in Christ is the freedom God gives every person. We get to decide what we do this season. We can wallow in the pain or foster more division, or we can look for the good. We can try to overcome some of the differences.
The Advent themes can give us a framework for approaching the season. Hope is ever present and maintains most of humanity. Peace is available—when we look for it. Love and joy are all around us. Choose to have a wonderful season, and you might.