During the Advent season the main concept is “waiting” for Jesus.  Well, for me waiting feels negative. Waiting in line, waiting to use the bathroom, waiting to hear test results, waiting…the list could go on and on!  The word I like better as I think about Advent is ANTICIPATING! When I think about the word anticipating it makes me feel excited, happy, and filled with wonder!  Anticipating what will be in a gift, anticipating a birthday party, anticipating what will happen next in a great movie… The list could go on and on in a good way.

One of the things that I anticipate each year is my WORD of the year that God is going to give me to follow in my prayer life.  Each year for the last 10 years I have asked God to give me a word that He wants me to prayerfully follow for the year.  Each year I start anticipating it even before December 31st when I proclaim my word of the year as a way to ring in the new year.

As I anticipate the word that God will give me during advent I keep my eyes open as I read God’s word.  Some years it has felt like the same words keeps showing up in scripture.  Some years it comes in a very quiet moment when I am actually pausing to listen and ask God to give me my word of the year.  Other years I have been on a brisk walk talking with my husband and the word just becomes very clear to me as we are discussing life, and all that God desires for us.  Other years I have chosen a word out the the deep longing of my heart, and it was more me crying out to God in anticipation of what I longed for from Him.

I can’t say that there is one way that you will hear your word this year, but what I do want to offer are a few ways that you might anticipate a word of the year as a gift from God for Christmas this year.

As you read Scripture over the next few weeks notice if a word is repeated a lot, or if it seems to jump off the page at you.
As you pray pause and listen in silence and see if a word comes to mind that seems like something that God would want for you.
Allow yourself to have a deep longing in your heart that God might fill.

Each year I have done this I have been extremely surprised at how God comes near as I press in and follow my word He has given.  9 years ago my word of the year was ENGAGE.  That was the year I met my husband.  My desire in my heart was to engage with people enough that there would be a possibility of marriage in my life. 4 years ago I chose the word HEALTH thinking it would be all about me getting healthy which was just one layer of praying for health as I ended up praying for my husband and father to live as they both experienced life threatening health issues.  Last year the word READY kept jumping out of scripture for me, and at first I thought this word would be GET READY for AWESOME!  As the year went on I kept getting “ready”.  Ready emotionally, ready financially, ready…ready…ready…hold on…I’m not sure what I’m getting ready for?  And then it hit me if someone tells you to get ready, but doesn’t tell you what you are getting ready for, it’s not likely going to be good, it’s going to be hard, and then good.  You know like a mission trip.  I had it in my head for the first 8 months that I was getting ready for something really easy and fun and new and adventurous…and then it happened… On September 1st the company my husband had been working at for the last 13 years suddenly closed!  No warning, no severance package, nothing.  Just the end of the road.  Not what I had hoped my word ready would be about.  But, in that moment I was glad that God had told me to get READY!  Get ready to be patient, get ready to have your world be rocked get ready to watch your marriage grow and flourish, get ready to see how I will work!  3 months to the day my husband was offered the job he has longed for his whole life the opportunity to pastor a church!  Now we really need to get READY!  READY TO SEE GOD WORK!  Amen!

Family idea: Hang and extra stocking or wrap a special box with a slot, and for the next few weeks place words in the stocking or box that you think could be a word of the year for the whole family.  Don’t tell each other the words you are putting in and see how God works.  Take a special moment to open the stocking or gift during the holiday season; Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or even wait until December 31st, create your own new family tradition of anticipation of the coming of Christ in your lives for the year ahead.  Do a family word together.  Each of you have a word for the year as a way to pray for each other.  Even take a moment during the season to pray over your word or words for the year.  Make sure you write them down somewhere so that you can remember to reflect on them throughout your year!

Diana Shiflett is Pastor of Spiritual Formation Naperville Covenant Church: Her passion is creating space where people can meet with God.  Diana loves to meet with people in Spiritual Direction.  Her heart is to watch people come alive as they serve their King Jesus Christ.  Currently Diana is an adjunct professor at North Park University teaching Intro to Youth Ministry.  She finds great hope in the next generation as they learn to love God and love others. {Read More}