Written by Heather Bishop:
In our busy world, it is so easy to get caught up in the “have to” of the holiday season. I “have to” attend every Christmas party. I “have to” find the perfect Pinterest wreath. I “have to” bring the funniest white-elephant gift. It is so easy to rush from one store to the next, one party to the next. If we are not careful, the Christmas season can fly by without really even embracing what the season is all about.
It is Advent. An arrival. An invitation to slow down and wait for Messiah.
Advent is a season to remind students, families, and ourselves that slowing down and waiting expectantly is biblical. In fact, the Bible tells us to find joy in our waiting (Isaiah 40:31). While we wait, we are refined as we hope for what is to come. As we hope for WHO is to come. This is so counter-cultural for many of us. We don’t like to wait…for anything. And because we don’t like to wait, we don’t always teach others to wait.
I often forget until this season that many years ago the Israelites spent 400 years enduring silence from God, waiting on God, and wondering if God even heard them. They waited and prayed and hoped for a Savior. And after the waiting and the refining—He came. Immanuel. God with us.
Today we wait for answers and hope for God’s presence and power in our lives. We wait for His return. This slowing down and waiting we are called to is not passive; it is not a lazy response. Rather, this waiting is active and intentional. This waiting is intentionally creating margin in our lives so we can focus on the One we are waiting for.
This Advent season should be a time of slowing down, reflecting, remembering God’s past faithfulness, and hoping for faithfulness to come.
So how can we teach and model expectant waiting with our students and families?
Help families with their “have to” list. Instead of providing a lot of age-grade ministry opportunities, provide a few church-wide opportunities to funnel all of your people to. Resource families with an advent Bible reading plan, provide a church-wide service opportunity, and include all ages in your annual Christmas worship service. Use these things to help families create margin during this busy season—give them permission to slow down and experience Jesus personally and together.
TEACH AND MODEL REFLECTIVE LIVES
At the end of the year, take time to evaluate your personal relationship with the Lord as a leader. What are you currently “waiting” for? How has God refined you this year during the waiting process? Have you seen God use the waiting for your good and His glory? Have you slowed down long enough to hear what the Lord wants to teach you? A lot of our students and families are waiting for answers. Encourage them to slow down and reflect on how the lessons learned in “waiting” may be the most important part of their answer. Send home a list of reflection questions with each student for them to discuss with their families.
FOCUS ON THE GIVER, NOT THE GIFT
In every conversation, we must point our families, our students and our leadership to the Giver and not the gifts. There are families in our church that have not received the “gift” they’ve waited for. In fact, they’ve waited and prayed only to receive horrible news from the doctor. We have others who have recently received difficult news about their parents’ marriage. We have a real opportunity to BE the church to these hurting families, to minister with our presence, and to continue pointing them to Jesus. Remind them that after the silence and the questions, the Lord gave “God with us.” He gave us Himself. And He will never leave us or forsake us. (Deut. 31:6)
Together, in the midst of the “have to” this season, let’s help each other to slow down and wait.