Sunday, December 22, 2013

Advent 2013

Advent is almost over. Twenty-two days ago, we began the journey through Advent. While I would have like to have posted this sooner, it has been a busy Advent and I have not had time. 

As part of a local ministerial association, I was asked to write an article about Advent. Since our local newspaper does not make articles like this available on-line, I am going to post it here.

Advent, which literally means “coming,” is the season when Christians prepare for the coming of the Messiah, the Christ. We often sing Advent hymns rather than Christmas carols. The suggested scripture readings for the season focus on passages which prepare us for the coming of Jesus as a baby in the manger, as well as texts which focus on the second coming of Christ. Advent is that season when we are we are most aware of living in the in-between time – that time between Jesus’ birth and his return on the last day.

This can be a difficult time for us, especially as we see all the advertisements for Christmas, beginning even before Halloween is over. It becomes so easy for us to get caught up in the excitement, each day busier than the last, as we try to out-decorate, out-shop, out-spend, and out-party the previous year and everyone around us.

This is why the church teaches patient waiting as part of Advent. We watch, and we wait. We light Advent candles to mark the weeks, and we wait. We sing Advent hymns, and we wait. We decorate a little at a time, and we wait. We use blue paraments to signify hope – hope at the anticipation of the coming Messiah, and we wait. We hear the stories of the Annunciation – the angel announcing to Mary that she will bear a son, and we wait. We hear about John the Baptist, come to prepare the way of the Lord, and we wait. We read the prophet Isaiah and hear the prophecies of the coming Messiah, and we wait.

While we wait, we are called to examine our lives and our priorities, just as John the Baptist called for repentance as he baptized in the river Jordan. While we wait, we are called to bring the message of the coming Messiah to others who may not have heard. While we wait, we are called to remember the poor, and those who are homeless and hungry. While we wait, we prepare for the coming babe in the manger as choirs practice, and pageants are rehearsed; as greens and poinsettias appear in the sanctuary.

Even while we wait, we are assaulted from all sides to spend more, to shop earlier and later, to stand in longer and longer lines to get that “must have” gift at the best possible price. Each year, while we wait, more and more Christmas movies and television shows appear, urging us to begin our celebration of Christmas earlier and earlier. As we wait, we go to parties and eat too much, drink too much, and later we wonder what happened to our self-control.

All this waiting, and yet when Christmas Day comes, we can’t wait to till it is over so we can start taking the decorations down and putting them away till next year, when the season is actually only just begun! The twelve days of Christmas – that time from Christmas Day till Epiphany when we celebrate the coming of the wise men, becomes lost because we have been inundated with Christmas music since before Thanksgiving and we are tired of it by Christmas Day.

This year, join us as we wait, savoring the anticipation of the coming of Christ. Join us as the church celebrates the entire Christmas season, up to and including the Epiphany on January 6. Leave the tree up until then, rather than taking it down on New Years Day. Spend some time this Advent season feeding the hungry, helping someone build their own home, buy a toy or clothing for a child that will otherwise go without, and wait for the celebration of the birth of the Lord, for he has come, and has promised to come again.

Blessings to you during the final days of Advent and into Christmas. In two days we can begin to celebrate in earnest the coming of our Lord and continue for the next twelve days. Merry Christmas!

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