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The Separation is in the Preparation

O Zion, messenger of good news, shout from the mountaintops! Shout it louder, O Jerusalem. Shout, and do not be afraid. Tell the towns of Judah, “Your God is coming!” (Isaiah 40:9 NLT)

I am personally not a big fan of those motivational posters and catchphrases that coaches and HR recruiters tend to love. Frankly, if someone tries to get me pumped up by telling me I “need to primed for the climb,” I will most likely just think of why they need better rhymes. But right now, we as Christians find ourselves in the season of Advent, a season where the preparation of our hearts and homes really does separate it from any other time of the year.

Advent means waiting, something we are all surprisingly accustomed to, despite often having self-deprecating views of just how patient we aren’t. We sit in traffic, cursing the cars in front of us, but we don’t slam our cars into park and walk away. We wait in lines like we were born for it, and it exhausts us. We take a number, stand back, check our phones and wile away the hours until our number is up. We are good at standing still until something happens, but if we are honest with ourselves, we aren’t present in the traffic, or the post office or the DMV; we are passively waiting, wishing ourselves elsewhere.

Advent means actively waiting. Preparation for any big task, including welcoming the creator of the Universe into our midst, means knowing that He’s on His way and not procrastinating until the last minute to find a good-enough gift or side dish.

It isn’t always easy getting into the “Christmas spirit.” With a million things to do and buy and photos to take and cards to send and pageants to attend and office parties to trudge through, our Advent becomes a series of checklists… and nowhere on those pages is the effort to be presently, hopefully, daily waiting on the presence of God With Us. We often forget that waiting on the Lord takes hope, faith and love, all of which are the best of gifts left to us on this advent journey we call life.

My friend Sarah is an incredible graphic designer and has created an excellent advent calendar that has nothing to do with chocolate or toys. It’s 28 days of cards, each depicting a different scene and each meant to be read as a family daily, with activities and verses to meditate on each day. The calendar is not meant just to be beautiful, it’s meant to take a moment out of your checklist life and remember that the mountains are shouting that the Lord is coming.

Advent is a season, because seasons are necessary to effect change. One day of celebration often only changes the schedule of the week, but an entire season of preparation can form new habits of the heart and mind that give you the courage to shout and not be afraid, to tell Judah and the world: “Your God is coming!”

Ali can be reached by email here. The editor likes the title catchphrase from Russell Wilson.

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