In 2010 our church made a commitment to read through the Bible together in one year. Our pastors prepared a guide to help us read and think about what we were reading. They prepared family worship guides to go along with this, to help us spend time each week as individual families focusing on the Scripture readings for the week. And each Sunday they would preach on that section of Scripture and help us understand how the Bible holds together. In October we came to the conclusion of the Old Testament. The Sunday that we finished the Old Testament, our pastor preached from Malachi and at the conclusion of the sermon talked about the 400 silent years. As we sat there, the lights grew dim and on the video screens at the front of the sanctuary it began counting down from 400. Do you know how long that takes? There was silence in that room where over 2000 people were sitting. We waited, thinking about how it must have felt to have no word from God for even a few minutes, let alone 400 years. At about 200, the count stopped, the lights came up, and we were dismissed. The following Sunday we came to worship, eager to begin the New Testament. As the service began, once again the lights dimmed. The video screens lit up, the count resumed at 200, a hush fell, and we waited. When the count got down around 100 out of the darkness a voice began to sing, "O Come, O Come Immanuel". Imagine the well-trained voice of a man who is passionate about his faith singing in the darkness this song that begins as a lament and ends in rejoicing: Immanuel HAS come!
In your celebration of Advent and your preparations for Christmas I encourage you to set aside some time this year for silence. Imagine, if you can, what it must have felt like to have no word, no prophet, and no promised Messiah. As the silence grows, still your heart and mind. Wait for Him. And in that quiet anticipation, be overwhelmed with His presence.
Remember, Advent is not just about the coming celebration of Christmas. We are always looking for His return.