So, I am not a member of the Advent Police. My tree is up; I have been singing Christmas carols; and our family Nativity set is out and on display. That being said, it is not Christmas yet. No matter what Wal-Mart or Lexus will tell you, it's not Christmas yet, and it won't be until the end of Christmas Eve services on December 24th. The Christmas season lasts from December 25th until Jan. 6th, which marks the beginning of the season of Epiphany.
I do think Advent is a very important season, however, and we need to practice it more and better. Advent is the season of expectation, of hope, of wonder, of longing. It's the time that we wait not only for the coming of the Christ-child at Christmas--the incarnation of the invincible God as vulnerable human baby--but also expecting the second coming of the incarnation, the coming of the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed was near (more thoughts on what that second coming looks like later).
In our hyper-driven, you-must-be-busy-to-be, instant gratification society we have lost the ability to wait. We have lost our capacity for anticipation. We no longer know how to long for something. It is very important that we practice longing because it fuels our dis-satisfaction. We are not supposed to be satisfied by the world as it is; rather we are to long for and thus be motivated to help incarnate the world as it should be.
Here's where the second coming comes in. We have gotten too fixated on the symbolic language of the second coming in modern Christianity and have forgotten the incarnational language of the second coming. While the scriptures talk of Jesus coming on clouds from East, they also speak of the church as the Body of Christ, the physical manifestation of Christ's presence here and now in Christian community. The second coming is as much about the second chapter of the book of Acts as it is about the book of the Revelation. The Second Coming is when the Kingdom of God is incarnate in the peaceful and just society foretold by the prophets and by Jesus.
Therefore longing, hoping, waiting with growing expectation, is important. It's important because it makes our frustration with the fallen principalities and powers ever greater. It makes us cry out "How long, oh Lord, how long." It drives our unrest to the point that we can no long sit but must act-- economically, socially, and yes even politically, but always peacefully--to bring about the kingdom the diverse, beautiful, just kingdom, where all have enough and no one is denied justice.
Advent is also the Christian New Year. So this Advent I hope and I challenge you to make a New Year's resolution to make time for waiting. Literally sit and wait. Survey the world around you and note where you would like God to come into it. Then pray that God move you into that space to be the body and blood of Christ for that space.