Advent: a season of looking forward
by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2013)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To explore patience, using the festival of Advent as a focus.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a leader and three readers.
Leader: How impatient are you, I wonder? Are you like any of these students?
Reader 1 enters and stands with arms folded, tapping their foot with impatience.
Readers 2 and 3 follow, acting in the same manner.
Reader 1: I hate waiting. Why should I be made to stand here when I could be doing so many other things? Why can’t I have what I want, when I want it? I want it and I want it now!
Reader 2 (looking at watch): When’s it going to open? I haven’t got all day! I need it now and I don’t want to be made to wait. Who cares if there’s a queue? I’m fed up with having to wait!
Reader 3 (looking at mobile phone): When’s he going to call? He’s two minutes late already. If he doesn’t call in the next minute, everything’s off! You just can’t depend on some people.
Leader: We live in an instant society. We have instant coffee, instant access, instant credit and instant ready meals. Our mobile rings and we have to answer it, instantly. We see the latest clothes, gadgets, music and games and we want to have them immediately. Adverts encourage us to respond in this way too. The offer lasts for two days only. Why wait? What is there to gain?
We are entering the Christian season of Advent. This year, it starts on 28 November and ends on Christmas Eve. For Christians, it’s the season of waiting. Advent looks back to the centuries of waiting that the Jewish people experienced as they waited for the arrival of the Messiah, the leader whom God had promised would come, according to his prophets.
Christians believe that Jesus was that promised Messiah, so, at Advent, they spend a period of four weeks anticipating Jesus’ birth on Christmas Day. The waiting in Advent doesn’t end there, though. Christians also believe that Jesus is going to come again, this time to rule over the whole universe. Therefore, Advent is also a time of looking forward to that momentous occasion.
Have you ever considered that sometimes, it might be useful for us to wait?
One of the big issues for many people nowadays is financial debt. To purchase something immediately, people take out loans and enter into credit agreements that can easily spiral out of control. Unscrupulous lenders take advantage of this ‘now’ mentality and trap unwary buyers who can’t wait.
Waiting, however, gives us the opportunity to save for whatever we are craving. It may take weeks, months or even longer to save enough, but the freedom of buying with the money already there is very liberating. There are no strings attached. There are no debts to pay.
Also, waiting gives us time to plan. Spontaneous acts and purchases may be exciting, but we can come to realize afterwards that we hadn’t fully thought things through. Getting a pet is a great example of this. Where are we going to put it? How much time does it take to give it the care that it needs? What about vets’ bills? Waiting and planning may help us to enjoy what we want to a far greater extent than if we hadn’t taken that time to think everything through.
Waiting can also increase our sense of anticipation. Christmas is better precisely because we can’t enjoy it straightaway. We make our lists. We draw up our plans. Similarly, holidays that we’re looking forward to build in our imagination. We can hardly wait, but we know that we have to, so when the day finally comes, it’s all the more enjoyable.
Finally, and maybe most importantly, waiting forces us to realize that we are not the centre of the universe. When we wait, we take account of other factors that exist in the world around us. Maybe it’s the competing desires of others in our family or community. Waiting may give someone else the opportunity to benefit now. When there’s a limit on money, waiting may enable others to take their turns ahead of us.
Waiting encourages us to look around and consider who, what and when. Waiting helps us to realize that time and opportunity stretch out into a long future. Waiting gives us a different perspective.
Time for reflection
Advent is a time of waiting that has a useful purpose. A thoughtful Advent may very well create a more enjoyable Christmas.
Traditionally, Advent was a time of fasting, which is hard to imagine now, with all the parties and celebrations in the run-up to Christmas. Imagine, though, how delicious Christmas dinner would have tasted after a really frugal Advent!
Among the plans for presents, food and entertainment, let’s remember to spare a thought for Jesus too.
Thank you for the weeks of waiting that lead up to Christmas.
As we each write our Christmas lists, may we think of those around us, of their needs and desires.
May our planning also stretch further, to include the needy throughout the world.
Please help us to plan in a generous way.
Any Christmas music or carols to get the students into the mood for Christmas! A selection is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iRG6F7_wP1w (2 hours 31 minutes long)