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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Watch what I am about to do to all your oppressors at that time. I will deliver the lame; I will gather the outcast. I will change their shame into praise and fame throughout the earth.

At that time, I will bring all of you back, at the time when I gather you. I will give you fame and praise among all the neighboring peoples when I restore your possessions and you can see them—says the Lord.

Zephaniah 3:19-20

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“Miss! Watch me! Look what I can do!” I can still hear these words cried out with such excitement during my day at the river in Lebanon with a group of friends from Dar El Awlad, a home for children from across the Middle East.

Life circumstances have forced many of these children to grow up too quickly, but for an afternoon, they got to be kids again. They swam, some of them for the very first time. Played games. Splashed. Took boat rides. Dunked each other. Splashed. Swam races. Threw rocks. Splashed some more.

And all afternoon, they called out with thick Arabic accents, “Miss! Watch this! Look what I can do!” I sat by the river and watched with great joy. The sun peeked through the trees that canopied us with shade. Water splashed. Laughter abounded. Love endured.

“Watch what I am about to do!” says the Lord in today’s text. May we live with eyes wide open this Advent so that we don’t miss a single splash of what God might do next.

Mary Alice Birdwhistell

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God, help me to be attentive this Advent that I might catch a glimpse of what you are about to do — in my world and in me. Even when I can’t see, give me the faith to trust that you are with me and that your love endures. It always endures. 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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