In preparation for a vacation getaway, I load four books on my Kindle, slide an adult coloring book and art pencils into the side pocket of my carry-on. Insert into the suitcase a watercolor journal, paints, brushes and a stack of greeting cards for composing letters to faraway friends. Laptop is included just in case writing inspiration hits me. Two magazines are waiting to be savored while strapped into the passenger seat.

I’ll be gone for one whole week!

I don’t know about you, but I tend to prepare for Christmas in much the same way I prepare for a vacation. I’m idealistic about how much I can accomplish and unrealistic about what it means to celebrate time as set apart and different.

Being is more desirable to God than doing and yet, my actions don’t always reflect that I value that truth.

Advent begins on Sunday, marking the beginning of a penitential season of waiting and preparation. But the last days of November – non-descript, unplanned, free from obligation — often blindside me into believing that I need to skip the preparing and waiting part and head straight for celebration.  The countdown to Christmas is all about baking, decorating, shopping and parties.

Advent can quickly become the number of days I have left to shop, not the number of days until Jesus comes to save me from myself.

Merriam Webster tells us that the synonyms for how we describe waiting are the following: delayed, deterred, postponed, time wasted, on hold, and held up.

But this is how God longs for us to wait with Him: anticipate, expect, linger, sojourn, and stick around — all antonyms for waiting according the same book.

The ways in which we often translate waiting are the opposite of God’s perspective.

Instead of feeling held up, Christ longs for us to experience waiting as an opportunity to experience His presence differently.

How might that look for you practically during the next few weeks?

What if we approached Advent being a prayer instead of doing prayer as a check on a list? What if we shifted our mental focus from purchasing presents to carrying his presence around with us continually?

I know, it’s subtle, isn’t it?

We can easily get carried away with the outward and miss tending to the inward exploration of the heart. A shift from doing gifts to being the gift God longs for requires attentiveness.

Madeline L’Engle writes, “To be a witness is to be a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

Are my choices making sense to God? Is God’s existence the hub from which all the spokes of my life turn? This is what I’m asking as I wait for Christ to come, not only at Christmas but when he comes in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27)

Waiting can imply mindlessness, boredom, wasting time, passivity – even hopelessness. But in Hebrew to wait also means “to hope.” As we wait, God reveals his purpose in the preparation he is doing within us, and our hopeful outlook is a result.

Will busyness define how we wait for Jesus to come this Christmas? Or will quiet contemplation be our sweet surrender while we wait?

Beginning Monday, December 4, I’ll be writing here every week with a focus on the true meaning of Advent; offering a prayer to begin the week and following up on Friday in our Sabbath Society letter.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy, I need accountability to remember what is most important.

If you want to join me in making Christmas more restful and less stressful, subscribe to the blog here and you’ll receive each of the Monday posts in your inbox. Our printable December calendar includes prompts from Chapter 12 in Rhythms of Rest. And this month the prompts correlate with the weekly blog post and our Friday Sabbath Society letter – isn’t that amazing? And hopefully, helpful. Join the Sabbath Society here. And share the Christmas printable bookmarks with those who need a reminder of the Truth during Advent.

How will you wait for him to come this Advent?

Lord, I want to hold desire in my hands loosely with fingers separated, leaving room for your desires to increase. Give me wisdom to relinquish what is useless at your feet. When I am tempted to create Advent as a season in my own image, pull me back and into your loving embrace. Forgive me. Be a shield of protection from too much and not enough. Remind me that being is more important to you than doing. On the day we celebrate your entrance into the world, may I awaken less weary and more hopeful.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his words I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. Psalm 130: 5-6