One of my favorite songs, “The Waiting,” by one of my favorite bands, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, has a refrain that begins: “The waiting is the hardest part.” The song has been playing in my head this weekend as I thought about the start of the new church year today.

We begin our new liturgical year with the Advent of our Lord, a period of waiting in darkness for the true Light to come. But how should we wait? Historically, Advent was a time of penitence and somber reflection, similar to Lent. Now, we are encouraged to celebrate this period before the arrival of the Christmas Child. Either way, with all the secular distractions associated with the season, it can be difficult to keep our hearts and minds focused on the true meaning of our waiting.

So, although the first Advent candle is traditionally known as the candle of hope, I want to suggest that we begin this season in gratitude. We’ve just celebrated Thanksgiving, a day dedicated to considering the many gifts God has given us. Let’s not be too quick to shift out of that mindset and into the hectic rush of practical preparation for Christmas. Let us linger in a place of reflection, thankfulness, and praise a while longer. Let us remember exactly who we are preparing to celebrate and all the things He has already done for us. Our excitement about Christmas should be rooted in our certain knowledge that the Lord will do much more for us – more than we could ever ask for or even imagine – in the year and years to come.

If we inform our waiting with gratitude, we transform our Advent into a period of active praise. We center our prayers and our preparation around our thanks that God leads His people out of darkness, each and every day, and delivers us to His Light. May we give thanks for Him and to Him, now and always.  

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created.”
James 1:17