"Prepare the Way, O Zion” (Bered en väg för Herren) is sung in churches in Sweden and in Swedish expatriate churches at the time of Advent. We light candles in the Advent wreath and prepare for Christmas to come. The word Advent comes from the Latin "Adventus" which means arrival. "Adventus Domini."
The whole society goes into this preparation with all that must be completed before Christmas, everything that needs to be shopped for and everything that should be finished. In reality this time is about completely different things than stress and exhaustion. It is the soul's New Year’s Eve and the church celebrates a new liturgical year on the first Sunday of Advent.
When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, the country was occupied by the Roman Empire, a world power built on violence, slavery and adding nations and kingdoms under him to make the empire even more powerful. The emperors let themselves at times be hailed as gods. But when Jesus rode into Jerusalem a different king made his entrance. When you look at it today, more than two thousand years later, it becomes clear that his kingdom and his power were of an entirely different kind. The contrast is total!
Imagine you are standing there roadside, Hosanna cries filling the air, people putting out their clothes and strewing palm leaves. Then you see Him come riding on a donkey far away on the road. “Hosanna” means "save me."
He is coming to the rest of us, too — people in different situations, who are happy over the election results and others that are totally disheartened. Some who recently received a medical diagnosis, others who have just received a positive pregnancy test or a new job. You stand with everyone else, and he is approaching. How should you prepare yourself for the meeting? What do you want to happen? What do you want to be saved from or for?
Advent is about waiting, and some of us find it very difficult to wait. The children I met when we had Lucia practice at the Swedish church here in San Francisco couldn’t wait for it to be Christmas. It's so hard to wait! But it's also great to wait and yearn, and some things are totally without value if they go too fast. The waiting has its time.
Use this Advent to prepare for a true meeting with yourself and God. Think about what you crave in your life or what you hope for. How can you contribute to get this, your desire and your hope fulfilled?
During Advent as we wait for the baby to be born in Bethlehem, we are waiting for Christmas. God is to become man in the little child and that is what we are waiting for. But I feel we need not wait for something beyond but for something within.
It is in you and me the light should be born. It is in you and me the warmth will flow. It is in you and me that the beauty should come through. It is in you and me that health should be given a place. It is in you and me that life should be lived without fear.
"Allow every Advent candle we light shine where darkness seems to have won, and instill hope in people's lives."
With a wish for a good Advent!

Louise Linder
Priest in the Church of Sweden San Francisco