When I think of the season of Advent, the four-week part of the church calendar that immediately precedes Christmas, the word that comes to mind is “expectation.” Indeed, Advent is a season in which we wait hopefully for that which is promised but is not yet fully formed. It is during this time of year that those of us who are Christians receive the startling news that Christ is being formed in us; that Christ is being born. The question is this: What will we do with such strange, wonderful news? Will we receive it as if for the first time? Or will we become numb to the message?
If we receive it with child-like faith, as Mary the mother of Christ did, we will find that our only response is to glorify the Lord and humble ourselves before God. Shortly after the angel informed Mary that she was to give birth to the Son of the Most High through the Holy Spirit, Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:46b-48). Part of the expectation of Advent comes from the fact that we are not worthy to receive this long-awaited guest—we are not worthy to have Christ in us—and yet He comes for that very reason. “He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.”
It is in light of our humble circumstances, and God’s far-reaching greatness, that our expectation of Christ in our midst—Christ in us—is heightened. This is not some expensive toy being delivered to our run-down flat; this is the equivalent of every world leader in history coming to live with us in our run-down flat. But of course, it’s much more than that. The preparations for such a visit are enormous: the curtains must be changed and the floors cleaned and the best food purchased. But we are poor and have no money to make the necessary preparations. There is not enough money in the entire world to make the necessary preparations. But it is in our spiritual and physical poverty that God meets us this Advent, just as He met a poor teenager named Mary from a backwater in the Roman Empire. Mary had nothing to give; yet in her humility and openness, she had everything to give.
Let us this Advent season throw off everything that encumbers. Let us, like Mary, respond to this strange news that God is sending the Messiah, with awe and humility. We are not worthy to receive Him, but through the mysterious workings of God, a plan that all the theology textbooks could never explain, we have been chosen to host the King of Kings.
Scripture Reading: Luke 1:26-56
Merciful God: I wait expectantly for Your Son, the Light of the World. Please give Your humble and unworthy servant eyes and ears to receive Christ for the first time. Amen.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published December 2008. It is the first of four articles devoted to the Advent season. Use them as a guide to prepare your heart for the celebration of Christ’s birth.