Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved. [Psalm 80:3 NIV]
This Sunday is the first Sunday in Advent. The four Sundays before Christmas Day mark the Advent season. But wait, it is still November. It can’t be Advent yet! We haven’t even finished the leftovers from Thanksgiving. Because Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, the Advent calendar is pushed back to an earlier start.
You may know that Advent is the season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of the Christ child. As a child, we understood the waiting part because waiting for Christmas to come was so painstaking. Thanksgiving day to December 25 seemed more like an eternity than a month. As adults, we understand the preparation part, because we prepare for the Advent season by putting up decorations, outside and inside. The Christmas tree must go up or in many households today, trees—plural.
But that is not the type of waiting and preparing that marks the Advent season. Advent is a time for preparing our hearts anew for the birth of the Christ child. We wait for God’s voice, quieting our hearts and minds so that God’s presence can be heard and felt in our lives. We quiet ourselves so that God can come to us, just as He came to us so meekly and vulnerably all those Christmases ago—as a baby in a manger. Advent is all about God's willingness—even insistence—to be accessible, reachable, and attainable to all His creation. Advent breaks down the barriers between the created and the Creator. God shines His face on us so that we can be restored in spirit, and restored in our relationship with Him.
For each Advent Sunday there is a significant theme or focus, indicated by the four Advent candles on the Advent wreath. The first Sunday is "Hope," followed by "Love," "Joy" and "Peace." As we journey through these themes, we are challenged to quiet ourselves and meditate the source of each of these in our lives.
Advent is the time to come back to God and reflect on what it means in our lives that God gave us the gift of His Son, to bring us hope, love, joy, and peace. God yearns to communicate deeply and intimately with us. In this Advent season, quietly wait and hear His voice.