That’s right, today begins a new year—at least in the annual church calendar. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, which is the traditional season of preparation for Jesus’ birth at Christmas. While stores have been hawking Christmas gifts and decorations for weeks already, the church calendar shows us that the celebration of Christmas itself is still more than four weeks away.
So what are these four weeks of Advent about? Traditionally, they are about preparation and expectation. If you had visitors come “over the river and through the woods” for Thanksgiving, you perhaps felt that sense of preparation (housecleaning, meal planning, grocery shopping) and expectation (looking forward to the time that you would spend together and the food and laughter that you might share). If you were the one traveling, you also would have spent time in preparation (packing, travel arrangements) and expectation.
The preparation and expectation of Advent are mostly internal. It’s the preparation of your heart and soul to recognize and welcome Jesus—God “incarnate,” or made human—in your life. It’s the expectation that his presence will actually make a difference in your life. It’s an opportunity to take a look at your life and open yourself to the possibility of change.
It’s also a real challenge to focus on preparation and expectation when the culture all around us is celebrating Christmas already. But I invite you to give it a try. In the same way that you might ponder a New Year’s resolution, I invite you today to ponder an Advent resolution. How might you observe this season of waiting for Jesus, of preparation and expectation? Would it be good for you to spend some time housecleaning your heart—or your schedule—to make some room for God? What changes might you wish to make in your life so that you are more open to Jesus when he arrives at Christmas?