With just a hint of the aroma of pumpkin pie lingering in the air, Thanksgiving is a warm but passing memory. Our nation’s collective attention is focused on the marathon race that is December: packages need to be purchased, parties need to be enjoyed, Christmas cookies need to be baked, and, we cannot forget, the decorations need to be hung. There are so many things to be done and never enough time. No wonder Advent seems to be an often-neglected season. Its message, which begs us to wait, to ponder, to reflect, does not fit the chaos of December. In the much talked-about series The Game of Thrones®, the dire warning of impending doom is summarized in the Stark family motto, “Winter is Coming.” In a similar fashion, and in a not too cheerful tone, people respond to Advent’s call, “But Christmas is coming.”
Precisely, that is the message of Advent—Christmas is coming, and the Christ of Christmas encourages us to sit with Him for a while. Sit, so that we might enjoy the warmth of our Father’s love which brought forth the Savior, Jesus, for all people, for all ages, and in spite of our disobedience and sin. Sit, so that we might experience peace in the Prince of Peace who reconciled us to this loving Father.
As we sit with the great Emmanuel and ponder His amazing love and lavished generosity, our souls burst forth with song,
The advent of our King,
Our prayers must now employ,
And we must hymns of welcoming
sing in strains of holy joy.
We must sing, not for fear of God’s condemnation, but for the anticipation of the Father’s love cannot be contained,
Hark the glad sound!
The Savior Comes, the Savior promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne
and every voice a song.
How wonderful it is when we gather for our Advent worship services, brothers and sisters rejoicing in the peaceful arms of our Savior. The darkness and drear of winter are cast aside as we lift our voices to proclaim the soon-to-be celebrated birth of our Savior. It is hard not to be consumed with the anxiety of a bulging to-do list. It is hard not to be anxious about the pressure of our Christmas traditions. It is too easy to be overwhelmed with sorrow at loved ones lost since a Christmas past. What cherished treasure are the words we sing in our Advent gatherings:
Come, Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Let us find our rest in Thee
This is the call of Christ to you and me this Advent: “Find your rest in me.” This is our encouragement to one another: “Come, join us in the shelter of our Savior’s love.” With these words, we remind each other that there is a shelter in the maddening chaos of Christmas traditions. That shelter is Christ and His presence is known as we pause to gather around His Word and Sacraments in Advent.
The call of Advent rest is for us; it is for our brothers and sisters in Christ. However, it is not ours alone. It is also for those who only know Christ as the first syllable in the word Christmas. As I browsed through the Advent hymns in preparation for this article, I was struck by the number of phrases and verses that included a call for the non-believer, as well as the believer, to prepare to receive the gift of life. In its final stanza, the most treasured Advent hymn, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” seems to be speaking to and for all who do not know Jesus:
O come, Desire of nations,
bind in one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace.
Hymn writer Jochen Klepper seemed to know that believer and non-believer alike have wrestled with the terror of the darkness. His Advent call offers words of comfort to all:
The night will soon be ending;
The dawn cannot be far.
Let songs of praises ascending
Now greet the Morning star!
All you whom darkness frightens
With guilt or grief or pain.
God’s radiant Star now brightens
And bids you sing again.
Advent is too precious to forget or forego. We need the shelter of its quiet calm; our neighbors need to experience the warmth of the Father’s embrace. My prayer is that you will experience God’s peace and be a beacon of light pointing others to God’s love and mercy.
 The Advent of Our King, LSB 331 Public Domain
 Hark the Glad Sound, LSB 349 Public Domain
 Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, LSB 338 Public Domain
 O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, LSB 357 Public Domain
Photo (c) FatCamera/iStock