Waiting with Hope
Dec 23, 2021 | 5 min read | Rachel Berkebile
Growing up in southern California, I found the weather usually did not match the Christmas season very well. 65-degree Fahrenheit temperatures and sunny skies did not exactly get me excited about the thought of chestnuts roasting over an open fire. While the weather was never a great indication that Christmas was approaching, baking cookies with my grandma was a clear sign that the holiday was on its way. We would bake dozens and dozens of cookies each December in preparation for the myriad of family get-togethers. This was a huge part of the advent season for me. The anticipation of waiting for the cookies to bake was merely a glimpse of the waiting for Christmas day itself. The season of advent is all about waiting. We wait not just for a day we get to be with our families and open gifts, but for the day we celebrate the coming of Christ to Earth in the form of a baby. A blessing which changed the world, bringing salvation for all.
When I moved to Germany to serve with Josiah Venture, I quickly realized that celebrating Christmas here was a big deal. In fact, Germany feels like the land of Christmas. Not just because of the weather, but because of all of the traditions too. Not only is Germany the place where the tradition of using a Christmas tree came from, but during the advent season entire town squares are taken over by Christmas markets. At these markets, you can get everything from handmade gifts for your loved ones, to candied nuts, mulled wine, and hot cocoa. Almost every German household will have at least one advent calendar. These range from homemade wooden ones with little drawers to reveal a daily surprise, to simple cardboard ones that you buy from the grocery store that hold daily chocolate treats. It was clear to me that Germans love their Christmas traditions and the advent season with its anticipation of waiting for the holiday.
While Germany can feel like the land of Christmas with many celebrations, in the eastern part of the country, very few people think about the origin of this holiday. In the German states that used to comprise the former nation of East Germany, less than 1% of people have a personal relationship with Jesus. This region is also cited as one of the most atheistic in the world. It is clear that those living here love to celebrate Christmas; however, it is less clear what they are celebrating. For the majority of people living in this region, the waiting for advent culminates in a few days off to spend with your family exchanging gifts. While this is fun, it misses the mark of the true meaning of advent and Christmas—the anticipation of the coming of Christ. But despite this, the Christmas season here is not without hope.
Last year during advent, my youth group met together via Zoom to bake Christmas cookies. It was so fun for me to partake in one of my favorite Christmas traditions with the young people I get to serve. As we baked, we talked about our plans for Christmas and what the Christmas season is about. Hearing young people in this part of the world discuss Jesus’ birth and its significance for us was so powerful, and it made me hopeful for this region. At Josiah Venture, we believe that it will be the young people, who know and love Jesus, that will bring spiritual revival to this land. As we get to disciple and lead them, we believe that it will be these young Josiahs (named after young King Josiah in the Old Testament who brought revival to Israel) who share the good news of Christ with their peers and families. As we wait hopefully for this, it is yet another image of the season of advent. Waiting with hope for the coming of Christ!
How do you enjoy celebrating advent, and what traditions remind you of our waiting for Christ?
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