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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The crowds asked him, “What then should we do?”

He answered, “Whoever has two shirts must share with the one who has none, and whoever has food must do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptized. They said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?”

He replied, “Collect no more than you are authorized to collect.”

Soldiers asked, “What about us? What should we do?”

He answered, “Don’t cheat or harass anyone, and be satisfied with your pay.”

Luke 3:10-14

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Crowds of people gathered around John that day, all with the same question: “What then shall we do?” He so quickly rattled off his answers to them, that it makes me wonder if his point wasn’t as much about what they were doing as it was about actually doing something. Putting their faith in God in action.

During the season of Advent, we often talk about waiting for Christ to come, but this waiting isn’t meant to be lazy or passive. In the midst of our waiting, we can and should actually be doing something. Henri Nouwen calls this “active waiting” which he describes in this way: “to be present fully to the moment, in the conviction that something is happening where you are and that you want to be present to it” (in The Weavings Reader, 1993).

Think about what is already happening “where you are” this Advent: in your family, neighborhood, school, church, community, in your world. How can you be “fully present” to these moments? In this season of waiting for Christ to come, what then shall you do?

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

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Oh God, what shall I do? Help me to listen, to pay attention, and to respond to your presence that is alive and at work within me and within the world. Amen.

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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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