“The Empire Strikes Back Snow Fortress with the exploding ice wall! YES!!!”
These were the words that burst forth from my lips, Christmas morning 1980. I was ten years old and, once again, Mom had saved the best present for last. Every year, we had the same pattern. We’d start with the perfunctory gifts: socks, underwear, slippers and the like. Slowly and gradually, we’d work our way up the gift ladder of greatness to the better presents, anticipation, excitement, and gratitude growing along the way—until all the presents under the tree were opened. Then, for a moment, we’d all act like that was it, all the presents had been given. But we knew, Mom always saved the best present for last. That final penultimate present would be hidden behind the white chair in the living room.
- In 1975, it was the Big Trak tank.
- In 1980, it was the Star Wars gear.
- In 1985, it was my first guitar amp. (Now that is real love. They actually paid to have that racket in their house.)
Each Christmas, there was a slow build-up to the big moment; the big reveal: the best present last!
That is the purpose of the Advent season: a slow build of anticipation, excitement, and gratitude. Each day, opening another gift, as we move toward the celebration of His greatest gift to us: His presence to us in the person of Jesus.
Over the next four weeks, we will unwrap the gifts of Christmas as we journey through the Advent season. It is our chance to listen to the stories, to remember the true meaning of Christmas, to wait in expectation for the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. The point is not to get rid of the trappings and traditions and celebrations all around us but to take a purposeful journey through them to more deeply experience the gifts of Christmas: hope, love, peace, and joy.
The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival,” and the season is marked by expectation, waiting, anticipation, and longing. Advent is not just an extension of Christmas—it is a season that links the past, present, and future. Advent offers us the opportunity to share in the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah, to celebrate His birth, and to be alert for His second coming. Advent looks back upon Christ’s coming in celebration, while at the same time looking forward in eager anticipation to the coming of Christ’s kingdom in full when He returns. Hope fulfilled in Jesus. And hope still to be completed in Jesus’s second coming. During Advent we wait for both—active, assured waiting.
One of the common traditions of Advent is the lighting of the candles on an Advent wreath. A circular evergreen wreath represents God’s unending 1st Love for us. And the lighting candles throughout the season—one for each of the Sundays before Christmas and one on Christmas Eve—represents Jesus’s coming to a world lost in darkness.
As the prophet Isaiah wrote,
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2).
As we celebrate the Advent of First Love this season, we will light an additional candle each week. Each flame brings us closer to the arrival of the true Light of the world, born in Bethlehem.
In a season often marked by frenzied busyness, Advent is an opportunity to set aside time to prepare our hearts and help us place our focus on a far greater story than our own—the story of God’s First Love for our world. It’s not a season of pretending or covering over—it is a season of digging deep into the reality of what it means that God sent His Son into the world. It is a season of expectation and preparation, an opportunity to align ourselves with God’s presence more than just the hectic season of presents.
I hope you’ll plan on being here each Sunday and using the 1st Love Advent calendar, so you can experience the slow build of joy and truly experience the Best Present last!