The mayor has lit the city Christmas tree. Black Friday and Christmas sales are beginning. All of this before some folks have gotten the Jack-O-Lanterns off the stoop and before I know what we’re cooking for Thanksgiving. It is forty-five days until Christmas Day, and I do understand the necessity of planning – we are already busy with preparing for Christmas Eve and beyond. Yet I can’t help wondering what we will miss as we zoom through the next seven weeks straining ahead to a day not yet here.
Our theme for this coming season of Advent (which itself is still two weeks away) is Watch. Wait. Wonder. Each action is a present moment verb, something that calls us to stop our mad rush into tomorrow and all things future: To watch for what God is doing now in the world around us. To wait in the present with the promises of God washing over us. To wonder at the grace that surrounds us as we savor each breath, each moment with gratitude and hope. Even the punctuation is intended to slow our pace – three periods to force a pause.
We are a people who give in to our impatience and who demand instant gratification. We struggle to know the spiritual disciplines and gifts of watching, waiting, and wondering. As we rush headlong toward some far off destination in the future, we zoom past countless events of grace and goodness, unable to watch what is before us because our eyes are on the road ahead. How often do we miss God’s presence today because tomorrow is our only concern?
We’ll eat bad fast food instead of taking the time to prepare what is nourishing. We’ll skip eating all together if it interferes with the schedule. We cry out in prayer and then assume God does not answer prayer when we don’t get what we want two hours later. Patience is a virtue for which we have no time.
Today, the sun rose, the rain fell, your dog greeted you with joy. Today, kids laughed, people cried, and God gave grace a million times. Did you notice? If you don’t notice, you can’t be awe struck with wonder. If you don’t embrace the darkness, the gift of light is unappreciated. If you don’t steep in the anticipation of the day to come, it will be a disappointment when it does arrive.
Slow down with us in this coming season of Advent. Let God set the pace instead of the job, the school, or your own anxiety. Watch the days for grace. Wait for God to act. Wonder when God does.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor