Approaching Advent and Christmas: Connecting the Dots, November 27, 2018
"Connecting the Dots" is a series of articles, reflections, and teachings to help us follow the themes and threads between the sermons and scriptures. I pray that this series is useful to the Lord Jesus, our Good Shepherd, as he speaks his word to us and connects our hearts to himself and his Father in the life and love of the Holy Spirit.
Blessings, Fr. Greg+
It took me some time to embrace Advent as a season.
I grew up and went to seminary within Christian traditions that did not observe the Advent season. These are wonderful traditions, traditions that are serious about the authority of Scripture. They just didn't observe the season of Advent.
And when I first encountered Advent in the Anglican tradition, my ingrained habit was to approach it as a countdown to Christmas Day. That's not the focus of Advent.
The focus of Advent is Jesus Christ, his promised second Advent in glory and his first Advent in obscurity.
Seeing the focus of Advent took time for me because I had to embrace Advent as a season. I needed to re-habituate myself into observing seasons of devotion as distinct from days of devotion. For me that meant learning to slow down and learning to savor.
Learning to slow down is a great gift and challenge of the Advent season. Advent is short, only four Sundays. And these four Sundays occupy space in the most hyped-up weeks of our cultural year. In contrast to this, we slow down in Advent so that we can ask God to speed up. Ironic, isn’t it?
The last words of the New Testament are, "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Two "Amens" at the end of Revelation answer Jesus' promise to return soon. During the first two weeks of Advent we repeat those Amens in our worship. Anticipating Jesus’ return in glory, we learn to savor God's future promises as we wait for their fulfillment at Jesus' second Advent, or second coming.
In weeks three and four of Advent we turn to the past and remember God's ancient promises, promises fulfilled in the first Advent, the first coming, or our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Remembering Israel's long expectation and the sudden surprise of Jesus’ miraculous, virginal conception prepares us to celebrate his birth.
When we arrive at Christmas, the celebration of Jesus' birth soothes our longing for his return and gives us solid ground for hope in the substance of his promises.
"And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away'” (Rev. 21:3-4).
The Advent season together with the Christmas season (the twelve days from December 25 to January 5) fills our hearts and minds with the complete cycle of devotion and worship: preparation, celebration, and inhabitation.
We prepare for what God will do in the future. We celebrate what God has done in the past. And we inhabit a present filled with the grace and glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
This is where we’re going in the seasons of Advent and Christmas. We invite you to come with us in this annual cycle of devotion and worship.
See you Sunday and may grace and peace be multiplied to you!