When the rest of London was in a shopping stupor, there was a small group of people travailing the streets. Bells in hand, their chanting was overlooked by many in the humdrum of trolleys and frenzied shoppers sidestepping each other in search for the ultimate gifts. It is rumoured that all but one were sleeping: The Beatles’ George Harrison, stopped and noticed. He awoke from the slumber of material want. They say that he examined his need for God because of his encounter with the Hare Krishna group that day. From a Christian viewpoint, the idea of ‘waking up’ is a powerful one. It resonates with me as something to consider this Advent. I have a very ambivalent relationship with Christmas shopping because the lights and the sales and the queues of people often detract from the real purpose of the season. Advent started on Sunday, the 29th of November, and Christmas is just around the corner. Today, I would like to remind us of why we celebrate this season. Advent is characterised by the attitude of waiting. On the 25th of December, we remember Christ’s birth when God became flesh to join Himself to humanity and to save us from our fallen ways. But it is also a time to prepare our hearts for a deeper reality. We believe that Christ will come again and we must be awake for when that time comes! Although we might not experience that apocalyptic moment in our lifetime, we will all face accountability to the lives we lived when we come face to face with Him. We are to wait actively by refocusing our lives, and to wait joyfully because the day will come when there will be no more sorrow, no more evil and no more longing because we will be one with God. This leads me to ask, how are you waiting? Are you waiting idly; or are you waiting actively? Start by using Advent as a time to deepen your beliefs so that you can become clearer about your longing for Christ and your mission in the world. “I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing. One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it’s gone. But to surrender what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying – even dying young.” I read this quote yesterday on the daily Advent reflection I receive via email (‘Best Advent Ever’ from www.dynamiccatholic.com). This quote has a universal ring to it. These are the words of a 17-year old French woman who died in 1431, St. Joan of Arc. Her courage and conviction enabled her beliefs to become stronger than fear. Her relationship with God enabled her to know her mission and to rise to what she was called to do – to help the King and to free her people. This was the mission she died for when she was burned at the stake. My hope is that St. Joan of Arc’s courage would be a reminder to us that we are not to wait idly, but to live and act with conviction. Our waiting is characterised by what we believe. We need to wait on Christ and fix our hopes on Him. The longing for His birth in our hearts needs to be reflected in our actions. I prayed about some of the things that we could do in the days leading up to Christmas to be active in our waiting. I am going to commit myself to focus on at least one of these things for the remainder of Advent. My hope is that you would find where God is calling you to renew your heart and mind in preparation for His Coming. Find rest Jesus said to the crowds: “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. – Matthew 11:28-30 Yesterday I saw a father with three children (all under the age of 5) enter the gym. He was holding three backpacks while trying to co-ordinate leading them through the turn-style entrance. His patience while they tottered around, momentarily having their turns to cry and calm down, and then cry and calm down, reminded me of God’s characteristics of shouldering our burdens and carrying whatever is weighing us down. Our waiting for Christ at the end of a busy year couldn’t come at a better time. Spend some time each day finding a restful place to pray and recharge your soul. Praise God for the blessings in other people’s lives Our goals and expectations at the beginning of a year can take a different course to what we had imagined. The age of social media can so easily lead us to compare our successes, failures and unmet dreams to those of others. If you find yourself in this place of comparison – especially when it’s holiday season of fancy destinations and instagrammable feats, choose to switch off from social media or better yet, praise God for their happiness and ask God to bless them more! Don’t get your stomach in a knot about what you do or don’t have – it will only steal your peace. Furthermore, think kindly of others and practise mercy by especially loving and forgiving those who are hard to love. Be active in your community Your church community, your workplace, your family, your society – notice the gaps and make small steps to fill them. Instead of dwelling on the friends that didn’t show up this year or the imperfections you see in your church community, pray to have a heart for your community. Perhaps there is someone you know who will be alone this Christmas. Invite them over for a meal or join your community in blessing those who are longing for your time, your company, or something material that you can offer them. Spend more time listening Use Advent as a time of review. What went well this year and what did not? Which area of your life needs transformation? Did you spend the year growing closer towards your personal mission of how you can love and serve the world? Take a few minutes to ask God where you are being called in 2016. Let this be a call to action. Let the frenzy of buying all the right gifts, the rush to wrap up your work before you pack your bags for holiday, the carefully organised Christmas meal and all that has passed in 2015 become anchored predominantly in the attitude of waiting for Christ’s coming. We wake up as we wait in the days leading up to His Birth, and we wake up to the truth that lies ahead of us – one day we will live eternally in the glorious, joyous presence of our King. About the Author Caryn Tennant My inspirations are the smell of croissants, Pope Francis and café interiors. I have had too many hometowns, but currently I’m living in Cape Town where I finished my BA degree and am now teaching English at a high school. My bucket list includes studying theology, speaking Spanish in Spain, and running a half marathon.