Advent.  It is a season of preparation. For the Church specifically, it is preparing for the birth of our Savior, Jesus.  Like Mary, the mother of God incarnate, we wait with expectation.  Each week in December, we focus on one of the characteristics of the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus made possible for us to know fully. First hope, then peace, love, joy… and finally we celebrate the person of Jesus himself, God with us, on Christmas Day. God sent this world His only Son, fully human and fully God, to walk beside us, live a blameless life, and then offer Himself up as a perfect sacrifice on a cross for our redemption from sin.

Advent is the preface to the story whose climax is Easter Sunday and Christmas is the beginning of the life of Jesus, the rising action to the whole plot that shows all Christ followers who we are and why we are welcomed into the Kingdom of God.

I grew up in the northeast where Decembers were months of quiet snowfalls and glistening white fields. It was a time when every tiny branch of trees and bushes were laced with snow, you could listen for the soft sound of falling flakes, and the muffled stillness reached deep into your bones.  This time of year, when the whole of nature lay blanketed and bundled, protected and nurtured for a season, speaks to a deep place in my soul.

The essence of advent is expectant waiting. God, who had been silent and not spoken to the people of Israel, His chosen people, for hundreds of years… shatters the silence by whispering in the ear of a girl with an obedient heart.  He sends her, and the whole waiting world, a gift beyond price.  Mary, quietly, wisely, and patiently hides the Word in her heart and nurtures it in body, until Christmas morning, when all that is hidden is revealed in Jesus.

What does this mean practically?  Advent is a time for us to prepare… as sacrament and sacrifice, and to remember Jesus… the only way we are part of the family of Christ.  We celebrate, we give gifts, we worship God and thank Him for making a way to be his children.  As we wrap our gifts, prepare our Christmas dinners, and go to church to worship with other believers, we attend to what is MOST important.  Advent is the why behind the what… it is the moment we take, the 5 second breath of gratitude in our holiday hustle.  It is our offering of praise… however small and however often, as we go about our day.

As you walk through the holiday months, may you stop in moments of beauty and be swept into the stillness and awe. Maybe you light the candles of the advent wreath, or walk with your family through the Jesse Tree  or similar devotional, but whatever you do, give thanks for the salvation you have through Jesus… God with us, God in us, God who made a way for us to be part of His family forever.

Ellie Hamilton