Hope Lutheran Church
An Invitation to Advent
The Christmas music is already here! On the radio, at home on my family’s TV, and throughout the aisles of stores people will soon fill. Some love this. Others despise that it happens so soon. Regardless of where you fall in the spectrum between “Christmas Music ALL YEAR LONG” and “Let’s sing Silent night and go home”, it’s easy to miss the gift the season of Advent is in our mad sprint to December 24.
Advent is a season of preparation and anticipation for the coming of our Lord Jesus. These characteristics of the season fit well with our plan making, house cleaning, and gift buying over the next three weeks. Many of us prepare to celebrate with family, friends, and neighbors. Many of us anticipate making the familiar trek to worship at Hope, the church homes we grew up in, or new houses of worship where our adult children have been drawn into. This is the practical side of the season for those who have the ability to celebrate it in these ways...
But we recognize too that some of us, our siblings in Christ and neighbors, do not prepare in these ways. Some of our preparation looks different because of loss, broken relationships, and more. Further, we note those for whom traditions, gifts, and Christmas feasts are only dreams too far away to grasp. The Advent anticipation for some is that God might give some small sign of life and relief in the midst of the oppression of grief, poverty, racism, or more. Deep down, I believe all of us yearn for God to break into us and our lives bringing hope, joy, and peace.
There is another side of Advent that helps us identify the varied experiences we have in the lead up to Christmas. You see, this season also invites us to slow down, take a break from the rat race, and breathe. In this we find space in silence and time where we thought there was none to wonder, dream, and contemplate the gift of God’s love wrapped up in Jesus the Christ. We are invited to think about life in all its complexities, to feel our own experiences, as well as the experiences of others in empathetic reflection.
So I invite you and your household to live a season of Advent, awaiting the revelation of God in our lives and in this world. I’ll suggest a few ways you might do this:
First, gather with us on Wednesday evening for worship. This past year we reviewed our Advent midweek worship and decided to simplify our service and honor our call to prepare for the coming of Christ. Join us for a 20-25 minute worship experience that can be described by this opening from the liturgy itself,
“As the days grow shorter and the nights longer, we gather in the darkness to await the dawn of God’s mercy. Our prayer is woven of silence, scripture, and song. The music is simple and easily learned. And the times of silence tonight will be long enough for you to breathe deeply, wide enough to wrap around the whole assembly, and deep enough to become our prayer.” (Holden: Prayer Around the Cross, Briehl & Witt, Fortress Press, 2009. Pp 66)
Second, use the Advent devotional our Board of Worship has put together this year. Authors of short daily devotions include members young, older, and in between. Using scripture assigned to the season of Advent, our writers invite us to dwell more deeply in God’s word, reflect on the many places we find ourselves in life, and offer what might be a new perspective toward matters of faith and life.
Third, make some commitment to yourself, your family, or your neighbors by taking time to simply be. This might mean committing to eating dinner at the dinner table without the T.V. or other noisy distractions polluting a time together. This might mean committing to attend with friends, a community event or Sunday worship. This might mean setting aside the first and last 15 minutes of your day in prayer.
There are numerous ways you might live into this season of the church that comes before the gift of love in Christ Jesus arrives. Yes, I know, Jesus has already been born, lived, died, and has arisen again. Yes I know Jesus lives in and among us each day, but we await the ways God will continue to reveal this good news and Godself in our lives. What are you waiting for God to reveal? How are you praying God might impact your life or community? You are invited to Advent.
- Pastor Matt -