Sometimes I feel as if my world is too chaotic for the work of God. But, I am reminded in Advent that he comes. He comes in dangerous times. He comes to bring hope and life. He rolls back the evil. He enters with us and he brings us out. (Taken from a daily devotion offered by the Center for Christianity Culture and the Arts)
Advent, taken from a Latin word meaning coming, is traditionally a season of anticipation, of waiting. We anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus as we anticipate his coming again. In many traditions each week of advent focuses on a distinct theme – hope, love, joy and peace.
The problem with advent for me, and I don’t think I am alone in this, is that the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas do not seem exactly calibrated for something so passive as watchful expectation or so profound as a hoping, loving joy-filled peace. Born along the prevailing winds of the world around me I do not find space to wait, do not have time to see the joy or sometimes even show love. It is a busy time for me – both school and work have special deadlines and demands in this very season where I am meant to be stopping, seeing, anticipating, hoping. Beyond that I am offered easy solutions to this lack of space and time to really experience and engage with Advent. Shop – buy – spend. For each demand on my time there seems to be one also on my finances. Tis the season after all.
This December a group of us are reading The Advent Conspiracy together. It is a book and a movement that have shaped not only the way I view and celebrate advent but also my faith journey more generally. I encourage those not joining us in our book discussion (and those who are) to look at their website to better understand the vision of the pastors who started the Advent Conspiracy over a decade ago. I pray you find something there that helps you see and know the “awe-inducing soul-satisfying mystery of the incarnation” (Advent Conspiracy 21)
The book specifically and the movement generally were created to find a way to celebrate this season of anticipation and wonder that is both resistant to cultural demands that lead to exhaustion and hyper-consumption and also situates us in the mystery and joy of not only the birth of Jesus but the life he calls us to.
“Missing the prophetic mystery of Jesus’ birth means missing God-with-us, God beside us – God becoming one of us. Missing out on Jesus changes everything.” (20-21)
The first of four practices the book introduces is to Worship Fully. We are invited to take hold of the opportunity to worship God incarnate and be present to the revelation of our Emmanuel. To consider what this worship could look like the authors encourage readers to look at the way five people or groups of people worshipped in the very heart of the Christmas story. Mary through song, Elizabeth with her hospitality, Joseph through obedience, the Shepherds who abandoned their busyness to find Jesus and the wise men who confronted empire and fear to get to the new king they sought. Worship is not one thing only. It can take many forms. What all of these acts of worship have in common is their focus – Jesus.
My prayer for our community this first week of advent is that we endeavor to worship fully God-with-us. Come let us adore him.