Christmas seems to come the last week of September with aisles at some stores already filled with wrapping paper and gifts. Before we can say “pumpkin spice” we are inundated with an onslaught of “Ho-ho-ho’s” and Christmas hymns. The commercial aspect aside, the fact that Christ’s birth is celebrated is not a bad thing. The onslaught, however, is quite numbing at times. Even in our church services, it seems hard to put together a worship set that works. And, the only Advent song we all know is, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”
Why should we celebrate Advent? We miss much without remembering why Jesus came and the power of the Incarnation—God in the flesh, is with us. Advent has always been a cure to what the world offers. It is the first thing on the traditional Church calendar for a reason. We start our year of worship with the story of Jesus coming to earth! We wait for a savior that not only redeems us from sin and death but who also walks literally in our skin. Somehow, celebrating Advent makes Christmas all the more meaningful in our worship. On an eve in winter solstice, a single light comes. In our darkest longings as people, this is how Jesus comes still today.
Like a chrysalis grows slowly in the dark, / our hearts prepare for your arrival / in faith we pray your beauty’s on its way, / Oh, even in the shadows of our trials / we wait for you, we wait for you
In our song, “You’re Coming Soon (An Advent Song),” (buy) our hope was to capture this life coming from the darkness. When we wrote the lyrics, we were taking scriptures and metaphors down, and the word “chrysalis” hit both of us. Something beautiful can come out of the darkness. Our trials that we experience in dark shadows have hope in Christ. In our culture, we have lost anticipation much in celebrating the birth of Christ. By the time actual Christmas arrives we are completely ready for the next thing. Happy New Year! What do we forget? The power of Advent is in the waiting.
For unto us a Child is born, / Unto us a Son is given; / And the government will be upon His shoulder / And His name will be called / Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, / Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6, NKJV)
Advent means “coming.” So just as Isaiah the prophet proclaimed, Jesus would come to us. This first advent has already happened, and our worship celebrates that fact. But, we still live in waiting. Jesus will return again. His second coming is impending. We know this world needs deeply a Prince of Peace. But, we also know this side of heaven we have a calling to live out. We are the hands and feet of Christ, real people empowered by his Spirit to live out his purpose and hold on to his promise. We should be careful not to be like the zealots and crowds around Jesus who assumed he was going to be the judge and overthrow the world government. That day will come. We are here to live out his purpose and promise.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, / but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17, NKJV)
What is the purpose of Jesus coming in the first place? We think at times with all the injustices that the cleansing of the temple is the Jesus we need to be to our society and even our neighbors. But, the hope of Jesus is that his first Advent was not to be our judge. That day will indeed come. That is how he will return. Our celebration of Advent is to be a part of saving this world, not divide people based on who we think is in or out. Not long after Jesus was born, his little family had to flee to Egypt, escaping the infanticide of Herod. In contrast, we see the angel chorus appearing and singing not before the royal court but before a group of lowly, dirty shepherds. The unlikely people who are “out” were the ones who were ready for Christ’s arrival. Which group do we identify with, the rich or the lowly? Advent focuses on the promise to the forgotten.
You’re shaping us into a work of art / Create a masterpiece out of the ugly / We anticipate with every passing day / Spreading our wings in heaven’s glory / we wait for you, we wait for you
Hope is the point of Advent. The promises of God are not all seen in the here and now. That is why we call them promises. We hope that our Savior comes, in moments we need him the most. Can the ugliness of my life be shaped into something meaningful? Do I have a hope to lift me daily in the dark times of life? Jesus is our hope! We wait, whether it is through a season or on the other side of heaven for Jesus to come to us. Advent season reminds of the fact that we have hope in Christ. We may not have hope in ourselves, in our government, or in our wealth. But, we can be sure that the promises of Christ are true.
Let us hold on to the promise / Beauty awaits. Beauty awaits / Let us hold on to the promise / Beauty awaits / You’re coming soon…
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