When my daughters were small, the Advent season carried a spirit of gleeful anticipation. They couldn’t wait for Christmas! To help them process the passing of days, I helped them cut colorful strips from magazines. We looped them through one another, taped the strips closed, and created a chain with twenty-four circles. We hung the chain over our kitchen table, and every day the girls took turns cutting a circle away. They loved to watch the chain get shorter, knowing that when they cut the last loop, the next day would be Christmas!
They are teenagers now, and while Christmas is no less exciting, they have entered the more grown-up world of rigorous school along with jobs and social relationships and numerous other responsibilities. Instead of feeling impatient for the special day to arrive, they want time to slow down. They want to feel the meaning of the Advent season, to see its beauty and pay attention to each day. Now, Christmas comes and goes too quickly for them, and they are right back into the ordinary time of busyness, stress, and hard work.
That seems to happen as we grow into adults. Rather than experiencing the magic of Christmas ourselves, we must provide it for others. We are now the ones doing all the work of decorating, shopping, budgeting, planning, and cooking. We rush and stress and ignore what is going on around us.
Today’s lesson texts were written for people in turmoil and desperation…not unlike much of our world today. The prophets Micah and John the Baptist spoke words of hope into a time of fear, uncertainty, and great need. They promised a coming leader who would “be the one of peace” (Mic 5:5) and provide salvation to “all flesh” (Luke 3:6).
Many of us studying these lessons are experiencing Advent in relative safety and security. We have warm homes, enough food, protection from war, and money to buy gifts. But some of us are going through times of immense difficulty. And people all over the world are in desperate crises of war, poverty, homelessness, and sickness. Let us remember those who suffer this Advent. Let us cut away one loop at a time and pay attention to each day as one that the Lord has made—full of opportunity to share Christ’s love.
• What Advent traditions does your family have?
• Why is waiting so hard for children? Why is it so hard for adults?
• What can we do to regain the slower, steadier pace of Advent as we wait for Christmas?
• How could paying attention to the suffering of other people help us participate more fully in Advent instead of rushing to Christmas?
• What can we do to help alleviate some of the suffering and share the peace of Jesus Christ?
Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.
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