We started decorating our home earlier than normal this year. It was the day after Thanksgiving to be exact. Being new to Nevada, my family and I have been eager to celebrate our first Christmas in the Desert Southwest. In part because we know the traditions our family associates with Christmas will bring a sense of the familiar to what still seems so new. Finding the right spot for an ornament we’ve hung on our tree every year for the past 25, hanging the framed needlework given to us by a special friend with its words, “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” or setting up our Christmas Nutcracker collection – all of this helped to connect this year’s celebration of Christ’s birth to meaningful memories from Christmases past. But there was one important thing missing: our annual amaryllis bulb.
We found an amaryllis bulb at our local Trader Joe's; we brought it home; and now it sits in a glass jar in our living room as we wait for it to bloom. For more years than I can remember, we’ve waited less than patiently for an amaryllis to present its beautiful bloom in late December. And perhaps this is why I have come to so appreciate an amaryllis bloom. Even though we know the bloom is coming, we have to wait; and there is little, if anything, we can do to force the plant to flower.
Waiting isn’t easy for most of us. We live in a culture that idolizes speed and efficiency.
During the season of Advent, we’re asked to get in touch with the discipline of waiting. Advent is a journey that invites us to step back from all the busyness of life, to quiet ourselves and consider what God has given to us in Jesus Christ.
This weekend we light the first candle of the Advent Wreath in our worship services. In many traditions, it is called the “Prophecy Candle” because it reminds us of the prophets of Israel who spoke of the long-awaited Messiah’s coming:
A voice cries out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
As we begin our journey into Advent once again, we’re invited to enter into a journey of hope. We prepare ourselves to celebrate our Lord’s Advent – the Savior’s coming into our world – knowing that we, too, need his gifts of grace, hope, peace, and joy. And we wait with longing hearts for the day when Christ shall come again and establish God’s kingdom in all its fullness and all its glory.
Waiting is never easy; but there are always signs of hope along the journey of faith just like the growing Amaryllis stem with its promise that a flower will bloom one day. And in the waiting, God invites us to receive the Savior anew so that we will be ready for Christ to receive us when he comes again.
How silently, how silently, The wondrous gift is given, So God imparts to human hearts, The blessings of His heaven, No ear may hear His coming, But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him still, The dear Christ enters in.
O Little Town of Bethlehem
© Adrian N. Doll, Green Valley Presbyterian Church, 2017