Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent & Anticipation

All through December I've been asking people "What are you looking forward to this Christmas season?" Almost every time the answer has centered around something that happens on Christmas Day. The center of my question was about the season as a whole but many answers reflected our mentality of Christmas as a one-day event. We spend the entire month of December (or some of you, longer) preparing for this one day that comes and quickly goes. And we tire ourselves out with this approach.

The aspect of the Christmas season that I enjoy most is the preparation that is Advent: reading through parts of Scripture that foretell Christ's birth and the anticipation that Israel felt waiting for the Savior. I was struck this year by the waiting and preparation that Mary did. She was told by angel before she became pregnant what would be ahead of her. She had nine months to wait and prepare. What would our lives look like if we spent 9 months preparing for the birth of Christ? How would our Christmas celebrations look different?

I've spent the last month preparing not only for Christmas, but also for my return to my other home in Kyiv. It would be easy to be frantic, but I've tried to slow my thoughts down and enjoy what is going on around me even when I'm tired out by all the parties and meals out. December 28 is coming up all too soon and my time here will be, for a while, at an end. And I am anticipating with great pleasure landing on the tarmac at Borispil and being home again. In anticipation of this, I've made a list of some of the things I'm looking forward to:
  • long, long conversations around the table while drinking many cups of tea.
  • walking everywhere.
  • meeting Lev Oldenburg and Elizabeth Yakim.
  • hearing Ukrainian every day.
  • interruptions that throw my schedule off and make me stop and listen to others.
  • buying food and other items in small quantities.
  • Ukrainian chocolate, especially anything that is made by Roshen.
  • caroling on January 7.
  • eating open face sandwiches and Olivier salad.
  • four seasons.
At the same time, there are some things that I am going to miss:
  • living with the Taylors.
  • Granada Heights Friends Church and being connected with people from ages 3 to 90.
  • feeling like an equal even when I am around those with higher 'status' than I.
  • being able to speak my mind freely and without reproach.
  • eating Asian food regularly but especially Korean food.
  • having breakfast with my brother from time to time.
  • going to the bookstore and finding more books to buy than I have time to read or money to spend.
  • the independence that one has in driving a car.
  • Bible study with other women, led and taught by wise women.
  • the beauty of the gardens at the Huntington Library.
As I go through the Advent season and think of these things that I look forward to and the things and people that I leave behind, I think about what Jesus gave up when he left heaven to walk on earth. People sometimes look at me and wonder how I can give up all my rights and comforts and position here in California and go to a foreign land, but when I look at how much Jesus gave up to walk among us to show us who God is, I think that my 'sacrifice' is minimal compared to his.

As you anticipate all the good things that come this weekend, may you also remember the anticipation and fulfillment that encompasses our lives as we celebrate Jesus' birth.