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Engage exists to provide perspective on culture through the eyes of a Biblical worldview, showing how that worldview intersects with culture and engages it.

We are a team of 20-somethings brought together by a common faith in Jesus Christ and employment in our parent organization American Family Association.

Waiting on Christmas

Nick Dean
Writing Consultant

Let’s go ahead and clear the air. I love Christmas. I love the themed music. I love the fantastic food. If I am being totally honest, I love the presents. And most importantly, I love to celebrate the most significant event in human history: God becoming man, in the form of a baby, to save the world. I just love the Christmas season. The atmosphere itself seems to take on a unique quality as the air carries soft whispers of good tidings and great joy. I even love the colors, both soft and bright—and that is coming from the type of person whose entire wardrobe is really just various shades of grey and blue. I simply love Christmas and the weeks that come before it.

And I am not the only one. Just the other day, I found myself wandering into a local Wally World with an enormous Christmas tree at the entrance. At its base, there was a number. At first I thought this massive tree was just very reasonably priced, but quickly realized it was actually the number of days left until Christmas. It was a countdown.

I could not help but find it a bizarre sight, juxtaposed to the already displayed Christmas decorations and fever of the gift buying frenzy. Here was this countdown to Christmas, and yet, so few are waiting on Christmas. Most of us are already celebrating it, putting down our turkey legs and dressing just long enough to pick up our Christmas gifts and decor. Not to be that token snobbish Anglican, but the mainstream church—to say nothing of culture beyond the church walls—seems to have all but forgotten Advent.

Advent is its own season, beginning four Sundays prior to Christmas. It stands apart from the generic  Christmas time so many of us have come to understand in that it is a time of spiritual preparation, of penitence, of hope, but not of celebration—at least not yet. In our eagerness to celebrate the joy of salvation come, we forget it is still salvation coming. So instead of waiting and preparing, we indulge. We exchange the fullness of our joy for more happy times, bright lights, and Christmas carols. Now, do not misunderstand me. I love Christmas carols. In fact, somewhat contrary to my central thesis here, I have a habit of singing them throughout the year. But I digress. Would that we were participants in Advent, willing to postpone the celebration until the proper time—willing to wait on Christmas.

We are an eager bunch, though. Advent reminds me of just how true that is. Not wrongfully eager and certainly not shamefully eager. But hopefully and joyfully eager. Our Savior is on His way. But like a parent who stops a child from opening a present early—not in scolding punishment, but in a desire to have that child experience fuller joy—so too does our Father in heaven look down on us, put a gentle hand on our heads, and quiet our anxious hearts, whispering, “No, not yet, little one. But soon.”

When I was still rather uninitiated to the liturgical church calendar, a priest once cryptically put it to me this way, “It takes a while for us to get to the stable. And that’s called Advent.” He went on to explain that the church is a bit like the wise men in the nativity story. They know of Christ’s coming and so, eager to see Him, they make the long journey to the humble stable manger that would be the birthplace of the Savior of the world. That journey took time, and it also took preparation. They were mindful, no doubt, not only of the provisions they would need for themselves along the way, but they were also mindful of encountering the Christ child. And so they prepared themselves for that encounter with tokens that had a significance all their own. Advent, then, is not merely waiting on Christmas, but on Christ. And while we wait, we prepare ourselves for that glorious encounter.

Now, I was not raised in an Anglican church or any that were remotely liturgical, so I did not know anything about Advent apart from lighting a few candles for some reason. I did not find my way to Anglicanism until my university years, and I am really not all that far parted from them. So, I am still learning how we might take full advantage of the Advent season, how we prepare for the coming of Christ. So far, I think it comes in a myriad form of fellowship, Scripture reading, prayer, repentance, and a bit of spiritual reflection. Christmas is exciting because it is the marker of Christ coming to save us. But as we look ahead to celebrating that, let us not miss out on the opportunity to reflect on why that is important. Christ came to save us because we were and are in desperate need of a Savior. By reflecting both as individual believers and in fellowship with a community of believers, we remember our ancient Jewish forebears longing for the Messiah, our own personal need for the Messiah, and our hope for the second coming of the Messiah when everything will ultimately be made right again.

During the Advent season, the liturgical structure helps myself and countless other Anglicans, Catholics, Episcopalians, and Methodists. Our Scripture readings, our shared prayers, and our hymns set for this time help us orient our minds and hearts toward the coming of Christ. But even if you do not attend a liturgical church and have no previous exposure to Advent traditions, you can still participate. Here are some resources that you may find helpful, and here if you have little ones. And of course, for the musically inclined, you can always sing Advent hymns in your house.  Without a doubt, my favorite advent hymn is “O come, O come, Emmanuel.” I am partial to the beautiful version performed by the Civil Wars, and encourage you to listen to theirs, but I will leave the lyrics to a more common version below. This Advent, I hope you will join me and your own church family in singing it both as song and prayer.

Together, as we sing these songs, pray these prayers, make these remembrances, repent of long-buried sins, and look forward with eager hope, a beautiful thing happens. Our hearts, our homes, and our churches are prepared for a divine encounter. We make a space for Christ, and we become more able to enjoy Christmas day not just for the family, food, and fun it brings—but for the birth of that great saving grace it symbolizes.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here,

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free

Thine own from Satan's tyranny;

From depths of hell Thy people save,

And give them victory o'er the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.


O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,

And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,

And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.



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