Ohio’s beautiful trees took their time bursting into fall color this year. My October 22 birthday often comes during peak leaf season, but some years the trees have been bare by then. We wondered whether 2017 would ever bless us with Autumn’s brilliance. The last day of October passed and as November arrived, our neighborhood was transformed.
I often hear people say that they like the fall season, but not what follows – the cold of winter. While I’d like to keep the days from getting shorter and colder and the beautiful leaves from falling, I’ve turned the calendar page to November and know that December is quickly approaching. And with it, Christmas.
On November 1, some folks gave themselves permission to listen to Christmas music since Halloween is over . These lovers of the holiday season may have groaned when Christmas trees appeared in stores during August, but now eagerly await an acceptable day to put up their own Christmas trees . If their window shades are down, you can bet they’re secretly watching a favorite Christmas movie well before Thanksgiving. I’m not one of those folks, however, I did practice some Christmas music with fellow flutists this week in preparation for performing at church. And I did begin to make plans with our sons and daughter-in-law for a Christmas gathering in December.
At our mall in 2014. I’m in the middle.
When you hear that there are only 48 days until Christmas, how do you feel? Depending on my state of mind, I might feel amazed that the year is passing so quickly, pleased that I already have several gifts purchased, or a bit anxious about all that will need to be done in preparation for December 25. I’m hoping that the mall holds off on playing Christmas music for a few more weeks. I’d like to enjoy the beauty of November before seeing Christmas lights come on in our neighborhood. Some areas of Ohio have already seen snowflakes, and I know that it won’t be long until they fall. The sparkly winter season will bring its own delight.
Those who have much excitement about getting to Christmas will need some patience as these weeks pass. For some folks, patience will be needed to get through the holiday season. Perhaps life has changed in a way that makes celebrating difficult. There may be memories of happier family Thanksgiving dinners or Christmas festivities that stand in contrast to today’s circumstances. If you’re one of those people, I hope that you will know the peace and presence of God this year and will find a meaningful way to celebrate.
Having grown up in the Christian faith, my family has observed a season of waiting for Christmas called Advent. This year Advent begins on December 3. Beginning that Sunday, Christian church services will include a focus on the anticipation that ancient Israelites had for the prophesied Messiah. They waited, not knowing how long the wait would be. While we may feel impatient for Christmas to arrive each year, we can count down the days with certainty as to when we will commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the promised One, who came into the world to seek and to save what was lost. (Luke 19:10)
A second focus of Advent, meaning “coming”, is the birth of Jesus in individual hearts and lives. As we sing Joy to the World, we celebrate the Lord’s coming and plead, “Let every heart prepare Him room.” Jesus enters into every life circumstance, whether happy or sad, and every home where He is welcome, whether it is extravagantly decorated or very humble.
The third focus of Advent requires much more patience than waiting for December 25. Christian faith includes belief that Jesus was resurrected after his death by crucifixion and ascended into the clouds after appearing to many people. The Bible contains prophecies, including the words of Jesus himself, that He will return to the earth at an appointed time that no one knows except God the Father (see Matthew 24:36). God’s salvation will be completed.
Patient waiting, accompanied by obedience to the one we have believed will be rewarded.
“Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:8,9