ColumnsNaming Grace

Don’t miss the moment

First Sunday in Advent:

We watch for the turkey to cook, the toddler’s fever to break, the sun to rise, our children to grow, the ideal job, and Christmas morning. And then, we are consumed with distraction, fall asleep, wander through the days, and are occupied in the minutia. And, all of a sudden the red button pops on the turkey, the 2-year-old’s forehead cools, the day breaks with beauty, our children leave home, the dream passes, another Advent has come and gone—and we have missed the moment.

On this the First Sunday of Advent, we read of the Israelites “watching” for the coming of their savior. For thousands of years, the prophets predicted the Messiah, yet, like us, the Israelites wasted the moment by wandering in the desert, distracted by the superfluous, and exiled from home for worshiping idols of the day.

What if instead of missing the moment, the event, the day or the season, we were present to God in moment? What if we “watched” by paying attention to the details of daily life—to the miracle of ordinary life? The great spiritual writers speak of the importance of paying attention to the now; God is only in the moment, not in regret of the past or the worry of the future. All we have to do is watch, for God is always waiting to be born anew within us.

What if we enjoyed the miracle of each family member gathered around the table, instead of worrying about lumpy gravy? What if we were awestruck by the miracle of our toddler’s energy instead of wishing he would grow up and settle down? What if we were open to the miracle of red, orange, lavender and pink strokes splashed across the horizon instead of complaining about waking at dawn?

Each Advent, Scripture summons us to be watchful and attentive as we prepare for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ. Yet the season often sweeps past while I’ve been shopping, decorating and engaging in Christmas festivities. Most often, I have been burdened by preparations for Christmas instead of present to Christ in the moment: in Scripture, silence, prayer, worship. For far too many Advent seasons, I have missed the miracle of the coming of the savior—of Jesus being born ever more deeply in my heart—simply because I was too busy wasting time instead of prayerfully watching for Christ.

As parents and grandparents, we watch with our children by lighting Advent candles each evening. We draw them into awe and wonder as we quietly gaze at the lights twinkling in the midst of darkness, reminding them Jesus is the light of the world. We are attentive by reading the awesome deeds of God to our children, especially of Jesus being born in a stable (children love to learn the importance of little ones to God).

Advent comes alive when we have ears to hear and eyes to see the miracle unfolding right before us. But it takes time in prayer, a slowing down of life, and an awareness of the Spirit. Let’s not be caught sleeping through the season or wasting the moment through distraction and busyness. We still have time this Advent to wake up, be alert, and to watch for coming of our Savior! Now, that’s good news!

How will you “watch” with your children during Advent?

What will you do to not miss this season