Pause

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… right? But some days, it just doesn’t feel that way. Joy can seem so distant, like it’s buried beneath the surface or hidden within the dark. And on those days, the thought of being joyful just feels fake and inauthentic. But what if, instead of faking it, we pledged to be real this Advent — real with ourselves, with one another, and with God?

True, it would be much easier to put on a mask and pretend. But if we allow ourselves to fully experience the night, and everything that comes with it, we will be ready for the joy that comes in the morning.

Let’s be brave enough to be real together this Advent, completely present to each moment as we wait with expectation for what God is going to do next.

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Listen

The people were filled with expectation, and everyone wondered whether John might be the Christ. John replied to them all, “I baptize you with water, but the one who is more powerful than me is coming. I’m not worthy to loosen the strap of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. The shovel he uses to sift the wheat from the husks is in his hands. He will clean out his threshing area and bring the wheat into his barn. But he will burn the husks with a fire that can’t be put out.” With many other words John appealed to them, proclaiming good news to the people.

John 3:15-18

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Think

The crowds were “filled with expectation,” and “everyone wondered” whether John might be the Christ. This sense of wonder led them to a new discovery: that “one more powerful” than John was coming soon. Isn’t this the way we ought to spend Advent — like those people, filled with expectation, waiting for Christ to come?

But after a while, the wonder of the season begins to fade. We know what to expect — the songs, the decorations, the smells, the special services. We know the rest of the story.

Even in the midst of familiarity, how can we can approach Christmas with a spirit of wonder? What new discoveries is God inviting us to make about ourselves, our neighbors, our faith, and our world?

Emily Dickinson (1830–86) wrote:

Before the ice is in the pools, / Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall / Is tarnished by the snow,

Before the fields have finished, / Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder / Will arrive to me!

May we approach each day with joyful expectation that "wonder upon wonder" will arrive to us this Advent.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

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Pray

God of Wonder, help me not to simply go through the motions this Advent. Fill me with a spirit of wonder and imagination. In each and every part of this season, help me to glimpse your presence with me in new ways. Amen.

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Go

Be brave enough to be real.

Be curious about God’s world.

Be fully present to each moment.

Be gentle with yourself and with others.

Be filled with wonder.

And be ready for joy.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

Mary Alice Birdwhistell serves as the associate pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, where she enjoys sharing life with a beautifully diverse community of people. She is a graduate of Georgetown College in Kentucky and Baylor’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary in Texas, and she claims both states to be “home.” Mary Alice loves the color purple, anything chocolate, and Kentucky basketball.

Advent: Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus

Mark Hayes

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