Happy Holidays

October 18th, 2012

Did you know that (as of this Sunday) there are only 64 days until Christmas? That’s right. And stores have already started preparing for you. It isn’t a new phenomenon for retailers, especially megastores, to offer holiday decor early. It makes sense that hobby and craft stores would get a head start on the holidays. Artists need time to work their magic. But it has become expected for all sorts of stores to stock everything from fake greenery to Christmas-themed, outdoor light-up characters in September (if not August). Retailers don’t seem to care if consumers overlook Halloween, and even Thanksgiving, in their excitement to skip ahead to Christmas.

Companies usually track Christmas sales from November 1 through December 6. (November 1 is usually a full four weeks before the Christian season of Advent begins.) In that time period last year, consumers spent $35.3 billion on online purchases alone. With those kind of sales in November and December, why do stores go to such lengths to convince us that the Christmas shopping season needs to start earlier? And what do we lose by getting a three-month jump on Christmas?

Holy Waiting

There is an art to waiting. The season of Advent—which is a time of waiting and anticipation and preparation—begins our Christian year. Jesus taught his followers to be prepared and wait expectantly for his return. And the apostle Paul named patience as one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22).

But the world teaches us different lessons. Much of our culture is “on demand.” We hear over and over again that waiting is a waste of time; and we don’t like to wait for a download, wait for news and information, or wait for grades to be posted. If we can’t get something immediately, we become dissatisfied or disinterested. When’s the last time you became frustrated because there weren’t more lines open at the movie theater for your tickets or popcorn? And how about getting stuck in traffic?

We all become frustrated while waiting and wish that things would speed up. But God wants us to wait. Paul says in Romans 8:25, “If we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” It takes hope to wait with patience. The Greek in which the New Testament was written has two words for time: human time—chronos—and God’s time—kairos. We need to trust God to act in kairos and not try to fit God into chronos.

The Time Is Now

So what happens when we live in God’s time? First, we are able to slow down. We can wait and anticipate without becoming impatient. Also, we can focus on preparing ourselves for what is to come instead of getting hyped up about what may (or may not) be. Consider world-class athletes. They spend years in preparation—years of discipline and focus—to get themselves ready to compete. But many of them, when asked about Olympic or championship competitions, say something like, “It’s just another game (or match or meet).” Why? Because they aren’t caught up in the hype. Regardless of the importance of the competition, the work they need to do to perform to the best of their abilities is the same.

As Christians we need to avoid getting caught up in the hype. Instead of waiting for God by showing off our faith and only talking about God’s kingdom, we should wait by actually doing God’s will and preparing for God’s kingdom. Instead of looking for signs and guessing about Christ’s return, we should do the work that Christ calls us to do now.

This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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