When I was a child, airport trips to pick up incoming family members accentuated the wonder of the holidays. We walked from the wood-paneled station wagon all the way to the airport arrival gate, just off the taxiway. Dressed in our Sunday best, we strolled the corridors, our eyes gazing out oversized picture windows as silver planes descended from the blue of sky to the green of earth. Christmas carolers sang festive songs beside bedecked Christmas trees.


As kids, we squealed with excitement as airplanes landed on the runway and taxied to their designated parking spot. Antsy with anticipation, we waited rather impatiently as boarding stairs were rolled into place so passengers could disembark the aircraft. In the stiff wind from the propellors’ force, we covered our ears to dampen the roar of noisy engines. Only a chain link fence held us off the runway; we longed to jump over the fence and run into the arms of those we loved. 


Anticipation, fueled by desire for a moment in the future, created wonder. 


Nothing about gathering family members at the airport moved fast. We lingered, listening for the tinny echoing announcement of the flight’s arrival. As we inhaled the stench of diesel fuel, we watched planes saunter down the taxiway to their designated parking spot. We observed the slow motion of airport personnel getting passenger bags from the cargo belly of the plane.


Once we could see the top of Uncle Arty’s head, towering above petite Aunt Ruthy, butterflies of anticipation fluttered all the more. Flying in those days was an event, an occasion to savor, a rarity, as flights ran on the expensive side. By the time I had a high school beau or a college sweetheart, flights became a bit more affordable, the cost having descended a bit, but the anticipation of waiting for the arrival of a loved one never lessened. 


To wait with joy is to wiggle with wonder, with hope, with impatience. 


To await someone special makes the waiting all the more full of anticipation.


Advent, just around the corner from American Thanksgiving, spreads out a four-week season of waiting. We are waiting for the birth of Christ, full of fluttering expectations. The origin of Advent—even its first date—remains a bit of a mystery, yet it seemed originally to involve baptism preparation for new Christian converts for the upcoming year. In some literature, Advent may have been even involved a pre-Lent season of fasting. Eventually, though, it signaled a season of preparation for the arrival of Christ in the manger as well as reminder that He will arrive yet again at His Second Coming. Advent is about arrival, adventure, and preparing to wait, wait, wait.


Yet preparing to wait sounds so counterintuitive, doesn’t it? When I am waiting, a restlessness often invades the atmosphere…much like those childhood days of passing the time until the plane carrying beloved relatives arrived. I check the clock; seconds tick by slow. I pace, adrenaline running full force in my veins. Where do you notice impatience gushing forth when you have to wait, wait, wait?


Advent and its rhythms and rituals invite us to move in companionship with the slow as we await the joy of Jesus born for us, a gift for all eternity. Such practices give us ways to hold the days in attentiveness, preparing our hearts for Christmas.

Yet, in times of preparation, decision fatigue nibbles at our energy. It distracts us from starting anything because everything feels like so much effort. I find I can go one of two directions: I either overprepare and end up with too many options or underprepare and am left scrambling at the last minute. Have you ever chosen so many devotionals or activities to use for Advent that you end up doing nothing because it all feels like too much? I’ve been guilty of that. I’ve also delayed deciding and ended up with nothing to commit to when Advent begins.


I’ll be the first to admit that there are times in 71 years I have occasionally arrived at Christmas morning exhausted, grumpy, unsatisfied, and not at all focused on Jesus. Whether as a child, who overdid it with candy and complaining, as a mother of little ones, or a single parent of teenagers, I could far too easily overcrowd my days leading up to Christmas. I set unrealistic expectations as to what Christmas “should” be, letting culture rather than Christ set the tone. Every single time I overfilled my pre-Christmas weeks, contemplation and wonder remained at bay.


In desiring Jesus to be the focus of Christmas, I’ve wrestled and finally let go of many expectations, traditions, and gatherings. 

    • I need slow. 
    • I need space to savor. 
    • I need pauses to prepare my heart. 


My soul needs the gift of choosing less, choosing unhurry, choosing expansive quiet and simplicity. I find I arrive at Christmas morning now prepared by the slow of Advent, in a heart state ready for joyful worship.


By stepping into a slow, simple Advent, I choose to enter with intentionality and show overwhelm where to leave before it ever arrives. 


Advent calendars, Advent wreaths, and Advent devotionals offer ways to mark time, focus on preparation, and find worship as the stillpoint of the season in opposition to the chaos of the culture’s hurrying ways, the commercialization of a holiday meant to be about worship. It’s worth the effort to ponder what the point is of each commitment you make in Advent. Will it lead you closer to the heart of worship, or lead you to being more frazzled and frantic?


I love Advent and Christmas for so many reasons, one of which is I was born on Christmas Day. I love this season of celebrating the One whom I adore. I await the birth of Jesus as if it is for the first time; I participate in hope for the day He shall return; I recall the faithfulness of God in the big story of His love by the act of the gift given: Jesus.


Pondering how to approach Advent, I knew I needed something succinct enough to settle me into small spaces of thoughtfulness, while also stretching me beyond my comfort zone.


I want spaces to reflect, relax, and restore my heart towards worship of Jesus at Christmas. 

    • Art invites me to pause. 
    • Pauses help me focus. 
    • Focus helps me worship. 


So, for Advent this year, I created a Visio Divina that draws my heart into preparation for Christ’s arrival.


I’d love for you to join me in traveling the slow road of Advent with anticipation, with slowness, with savoring. Take time to look at the images I chose, the scriptures that caught my attention, the questions that bubbled up, then linger long with God. Write out your emotions, memories, questions, expectations, reflections, and, yes, your overwhelm. 


Let God gently and kindly companion you into four weeks of preparing to behold Christ, born as a gift to your heart forever and a day, and for the Advent and Christmas season at hand.


Lean into the lovely lingering slow that Advent can offer. Find that you arrive manger side full of wonder, full of hope, full of joy as you kneel to worship the newborn King of kings, and Lord of lords. 


You can learn more about this Advent resource, Wait and Imagine: Visio Divina for Prayer and Journaling during Advent, on my website.

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