It is officially “count-down” time. The moment the red cranberry sauce is cleaned off the tablecloth and the effect of the tryptophan begins to wear off, Black Friday starts. And after Black Friday comes the ever present count-down of the days until Christmas. The paper chains that have one link removed each day by our kids so that we will feel the constant social pressure of Christmas.
That however, pales in comparison to the TV, radio and internet ads that fall in line with the buying panic and frenzied consumerism.
Unfortunately, it pretty much works.
But the church has its own “countdown to Christmas.” It is called “The Season of Advent.” Instead of being a time of consumer manic panic, Advent is a time of preparation for the gift of a miraculous presence. This “preparation” is not about decking the halls or trimming the tree. This “preparation” is not about baking cookies or wrapping packages. It is not about anything at BestBuy. This “preparation” is about a truth which comes into the world, not hospital clean, but cradled in dirt and born in mystery.
Advent is a call, a moment of truth to wake us from the “get-by and keep-going” stupor of this world.
We are called!
We are called to the awaiting gift of a new beginning.
We are called to the first sounds of the King as He enters this world through a stable of animals and a cradle of straw.
We are called from our dogmatic sleep and step into the new light of life.
We are called to the coming of Jesus to the world, and to us.
Paul R. Abernathy, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., puts it like this:
We do not recount the record of our redemption simply to recall ancient biblical texts. No. We retell the story so that it takes deeper root in us.
We retell the story so that we become the story, the church seasons becoming active verbs in our lives.
We retell the story so that we always ‘advent,’ being alert to the coming of Jesus to us.
We retell the story so that we always ‘christmas,’ being animated by the birth of Jesus in us.
We retell the story so that we always ‘epiphany,’ being awake to the revelation of Jesus in us for the world.
We retell the story so that we always ‘lent,’ being aligned to the death of Jesus for us in our dying to sin.
We retell the story so that we always ‘easter,’ being alive to the resurrection of Jesus for us and in us.
We retell the story so that we always ‘pentecost,’ being afire with the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit.
Advent, then, is more than a mere revival of a repetitious cycle. Advent signals the renewal of a spiritual journey that wends its way to the very gate of glory of heavenly Jerusalem, the eternal city of God.(“When Will It End?” The African American Pulpit 1 [Fall 1998], 6.) December, 2015
Advent is all about focusing on the astonishing approach of God that occurs on Christmas Day. Advent is the time that Jesus’ followers to get in “step” with the amazing story of redemption God prepared and presented to this world.
Advent isn’t a time to buy. Advent is a time to bond. Advent is a time for the people of God to connect and communicate with each other and the world, sharing the excitement and anticipation of the approach of Jesus’ birth and the first foothold of Christ’s ministry of grace in this world. Advent is a “bath of silence” (Meister Eckhardt) in a blare of noise.
We have to communicate with each other. Every Christian community is unique, focused upon its own special challenges, and concerns. But every Christian community is connected by their commitment to Jesus. Advent is the time for us to start celebrating our common center, instead of debating the distance between our circumferences.
As unique as each story is, each believer’s, each community’s, each church’s story are still connected by a central Christmas confession. As we “count down to Christmas” it is time to start counting our commonalities.
Advent forces us to focus on Jesus’ arrival, on the first footprints of the God’s kingdom being placed on earth. Footprints only appear when there is movement and our movement with Christ is always forward even when it seems as though we are going in circles. Advent means we are to get moving.
If we are to communicate the Good News of the gospel to the world, the miracle that is about to descend upon us, we need to be “out and about.” We need the gospel “guts” to be on mission to declare His coming.