It seems that every year I intend to “do Advent better,” and year after year I fail.
What I mean is that I typically end up feeling like I haven’t engaged the season intentionally enough. Each year I an excited to live into Advent well, and then look into the rearview mirror wondering what happened. My mind ends up being occupied with shopping for gifts, planning meals, and preparing food—not to mention the perennial flurry of end-of-semester tasks.
Aside from the frenetic activity that too often comes with “the holidays”—do we forget the origin of that word?—I also feel like Advent and Christmastide too readily become times when I selfishly turn inward. It’s ironic, perhaps, in a season of giving, but I feel that pull. Self-pleasure, self-preservation, self-protection . . . everything seems to become more pronounced.
But this is precisely the opposite of what an Advent posture should be. Advent is about waiting, about anticipation, but not merely for what we can get. Yes, we celebrate Christ’s first advent and eagerly await his second, and this surely is a gift that we receive, but it’s not really about us.
What posture do we take when receiving the Eucharist? We don’t reach to grab the bread and wine. No, rather, we humbly open our hands to receive. It’s the posture of a small child who has nothing to give, and earnestly knows she is dependent on the Giver. One who is full of gratitude to receive that which is undeserved, yet, which she has been deemed worthy to receive.
I want to share a devotional that I wrote for this year; I hope it will encourage, humble, and guide you in the midst of this precious Advent season.
Fall on your knees,
O hear the angel voices;
O night divine
O night when Christ was born. O night divine
O night, O night divine.
Reading: Psalm 29:1-2
“O Holy Night” is easily one of my favorite Christmas hymns. I tend to be drawn to songs that are particularly suitable to the Advent “feel”: heavy use of minor chords, a tangible sense of longing, and dripping with rich meaning. This one fits the bill.
What struck me about the words guiding this reflection—“fall on your knees”—is how unfamiliar this admonition feels when we consider what “Christmas” seems to mean in our society. Christmas often becomes a time filled with frenetic activity, overload, and stress: list- making, filling shopping carts, overstuffed post offices, disgruntled drivers, and the fulfillment of family obligations. Even on the positive side, we can get distracted by things that are otherwise good—gatherings with family and friends that bring appropriate delight may turn to mere “festivity” with no focus on the true joy come into the world. Enjoyment for its own sake becomes the focus. We lose sight of Whom we ought to enjoy.
“Fall on your knees.” These words call us to selfless, humble, abandoned worship. Most of us are unfamiliar with taking a kneeling posture. We might do it to accomplish some practical means, like scrubbing a stubborn spot on the floor, but rarely do we do it out of sheer adoration and love for our Savior.
Oh, brothers and sisters, how often we fail to give God His due. How often we make much of ourselves—yet fail to make much of Him. What we do with our time, our talents, our treasure—and even our posture—shows what we value. What is our posture this Advent?
Matthew 2 describes the response of the wise men to the babe in the straw: “they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him” (Matt 2:11, NIV). These men knew the proper response—posture and all.
What is our response to the King of Kings this Advent? Psalm 29:2 calls us to “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (NIV). Will we take the humble posture of kneeling this season? Let us fall on our knees before Him, worshiping the only King, the only Lord. He alone is worthy.
Written for Denver Seminary’s Advent Devotional, 2021
“O Holy Night,” lyrics by Placide Cappeau (1843), composed by Adolphe Adam (1847)