December 1 marks the beginning of Advent. It’s a big deal for the children in my household, because each day finds them opening a little door on their Advent calendars, which reveals a little piece of chocolate. 24 little doors. 24 little pieces of chocolate. One for each day, counting down to Christmas.
Something else they seem to enjoy is our tradition of lighting the appropriate candles in the Advent wreath every evening before dinner. This year we have added The Jesse Tree. The Jesse Tree (Jesse being King David’s father) is a little Christmas tree that we adorn with little homemade ornaments that utilizes The Jesus Story Book Bible to tell the story of Jesus, from creation to New Creation. We hope to interest and entice them to engage and wrestle with life and to develop critical thinking skills about what they see around them, in contrast to what the Bible promises will be one day in the age to come.
But honestly, its about chocolate. To my children, Advent mainly means chocolate. (And fighting over who gets to light the candles.) They spend almost an entire month in a constant state of receiving, but yet still waiting for chocolate.
Part of me wants to lecture them on the real meaning of Advent. I want to make sure that they understand the shallowness of making Advent about chocolate. But the other part of me sees children waiting on their father to give them something good and excitedly anticipating the arrival of that good gift. And in that, I see the very deep and exact meaning of Advent being lived out by the same children that a moment ago I was going to scold.
The word Advent, simply put, means arrival. But it’s more than something showing up. Just showing up is no big deal. But showing up to get something done is different. Advent is more than someone coming to your house or showing up at a party. It’s an arrival with purpose. Coming is really not the best synonym for advent. Words like beginning, starting, initiation and commencing are given as preferred alternatives. Advent seems to be the arrival for the purposing of initiating something.
So this is where my kids waiting for chocolate comes in to play. They are anticipating my arrival to give them something. Their constant anticipation and expectation of a piece of chocolate isn’t rooted in their selfishness, as much as it is rooted in their father’s consistency and reliability. They just know that every sunrise means a new piece of chocolate from the Advent calendar. They start every day waiting and anticipating the gift.
This is what Advent is all about. It’s about waiting with anticipation. Just like the people of Old Testament waited for the Messiah’s first Advent, so we wait for His Second Advent. We wait for His second arrival. We wait for that grand Christmas day when we will receive Christ in full. But for now, we should wake up every day, waiting on Him. We should open that Advent calendar of faith in Christ, anticipating that He will bless us with the gift of Himself. We wait with anticipation to taste and see that He is good. Knowing, that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above. We wait for Him. Because we need Him today? Yes. But also as sign that we long for His final Advent.
It’s not Christmas day. Its actually only the first day of Advent. But are you waiting for chocolate?