I love Advent! It is my favorite season of the entire church year. It is a time of watching and waiting, preparing and hoping. Together, we cling to God’s promise that Christ will come again. Advent is the season in which we recognize that God will have the last word over the mess of creation and the muck of our lives. These four weeks before Christmas are filled with promise and hope for our futures. Advent is my most wonderful time of the year!
During my pre-pastor and early-pastor days, I was an advent purest. I thought Christmas carols shouldn’t be sung until the Christmas Eve service, decorations should wait until as long as possible to be put up and that there should be a clear distinction between the four weeks of Advent and the 12 days of Christmas.
But then, something happened. I started looking around and realizing that we (the church) were missing out on a huge opportunity! Our culture was spending the whole month of December (and November and most of October, too) teaching people the meaning of Christmas - bargain shopping, snowmen, decorations, cookies, songs about jingle bells - and the church was relatively silent.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a good cyber Monday sale like everyone else. Christmas cookies, jingle bells and Santa Claus are all part of my family’s celebrations, but they aren’t the meaning of Christmas. They aren’t why we celebrate.
I’ll confess that this year I started listening to Christmas music in mid-November. I still love Advent. I continue to cling to this season of promise and hope that assures us that God is not yet done with us or our world. Christ is coming…again! Thank goodness! It is abundantly clear that the world as it is today is not the world God would have it to be.
BUT, I also believe the church needs to reclaim its role of teaching about the meaning of Christmas. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. This is a powerful and important message that the world needs to hear…now!
So, starting this week we’ll slip a Christmas carol or two into our worship. We’ll begin looking at not only the promises of Advent, but the promises of Christmas, too, through the eyes of people like Zechariah, Elizabeth and Mary.
Indeed, Christ is coming…again! The babe born in Bethlehem was the beginning, not the end, of God’s kingdom coming near. As people of faith, we live in the tension of this in-between time when Christ has come and when Christ will come again. We are Advent people. We are Christmas people. We are God’s people who trust that God has come, God is here and God is not yet done.