Dear Believers in the Messiah,
Advent stirs up our desire for God. Advent does not begin with sentimental notions of chocolate covered Christianity or gingerbread prayers. Notice that our Sunday gospels would not make the cut for glittered greeting cards or catchy holiday songs. These gospels are hardly romantic. Instead, Advent compels our wakefulness to a world that is hurting and in need of love, tenderness and redemption. Advent becomes a profound and deep hope that everything in our world will be brought back to what is good, caring and wise. Advent is meant to get us on our feet and keep us moving until every aspect of our human condition is made whole.
We begin the Christian story all over again in this First Sunday of Advent. We wait for the coming of the Messiah. We long for a worldview that cultivates hopefulness for people on earth. Amazingly, the gospel in this New Year of Grace does not start off with a quaint or sentimental notion of Christmas. In fact, it is just the opposite.
Advent takes us by the shoulders and shakes us out of complacency. These four weeks, just as an alarm clock, wake us to the Messiah’s coming. Luke 21:25-28, 34-36, which is read today, takes us to the extreme of letting go of everything to which we cling, including our addictions, our apathy and our hatred. Our hearts are challenged to stay awake beyond our own ego. We have become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life. The world is longing for something new, including our lives that have centered on dividing people, the accusations of our slander and the sleepiness of our moral complacency.
Our vigilance to stay awake in Advent takes many forms. We are to become vulnerable for God. So much of what we do in our world does not work, especially when it is based on power, authority and unkindness. When we look at so much of how the world works, it is truly based on fear.
The season of Advent is meant to humble us once again. This humility is not a human put-down, but is meant for us to finally realize that God is God and we are not. We stand gazing at the stars in the darkness of Advent. We bend down to raise up the ill and those tied down with failure and hopelessness. We extend our hearts to people who shelter themselves in tears and fear during the nighttime.
Advent cultivates our desire for the richness of God’s love and mercy. Without us coming to realize that we need God and God’s people, Christmas will only be a time of tinsel and self-reliance. Advent’s four-week preparation to the celebration of Christ’s birth is dramatic and grace-filled. However, we realize that we do not wait in our day for this child to be born. We wait instead for us to be amazed at God’s breakthrough in our heartache and in our broken Church to bring us the glory and love of Christ Jesus today.