The Holidays are upon us!
When I say “upon us,” I mean it in the same sense as, “the Philistines are upon us!” The page is barely allowed to turn on Thanksgiving before America’s version of Christmas crashes the party wearing a Santa hat and offering deep discounts. The food has hardly digested and many are off to go shopping for that next event. The Thanksgiving feast has just wound down and people are busily replacing their faux fall foliage with evergreens and twinkling lights. Ready or not, it’s Christmas everyone!
This is how we have come to mark time in our consumer culture, even in the face of a pandemic. It was Thanksgiving. Now it is Christmas. Then will come New Year’s. Next is Valentine’s Day. On and on it goes, and therein lies the problem. The way we mark time has an insidious falsehood built into it. The lie that subtly whispers, “On and on it goes.” We move so rapidly through our consumerist version of the calendar there is no place to turn out and take in the long view of what lies ahead. There is no set aside time where we, as a culture, are taught to consider what happens when the calendar runs out of days. There is no season to meditate on the fact that at some of our holiday meals there are empty seats at the table that will never be filled again. Time has marched on and it has left some of us behind. At what point in the year do we stop to consider this? What would we call this holiday and what box of decor do we pull out to set the mood?
Advent enters into our yearly calendar, just prior to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, in order to teach us the goal of His birth.
It may sound morbid, but the Church does have a time set aside for that exact purpose: Advent. Everyone marks time in some manner, but the question is how is it to be marked in light of the fact that, “time, like an ever-rolling stream, bears all its sons away?” What is history and where is it headed? We look behind and we see the repeated cycle of life and death. The temptation is to look ahead and to assume that this is what the future holds as well.
Advent enters into our yearly calendar, just prior to the celebration of Jesus’ birth, in order to teach us the goal of His birth. This Child comes to make all things new. As wonderful as that is, it presupposes a reality that we try our best to forget, that all things need to be made new. This present existence isn’t good enough, no matter how much we try to cover the ugliness and hurt by wrapping it up in shiny paper and smothering it in sentiment. We have pain. We cause pain. We sin and are sinned against. We have the scars and the list of regrets to prove it. And, in the end, we all die and we have the innate sickening sense that we will have to answer for all we have done. How can we as mortal creatures cope with this reality looming large on the horizon of our lives? Plan the next event and do it quickly!
Thankfully, Advent confronts us with the very thing we work hard all year long to ignore; the end. But through the confrontation, Advent leads us to consider both the magnitude of our neediness and the magnitude of the gift given to the needy at Christmas; the gift of the God-man interrupting human history to deal with our sin and the misery it causes once and for all. In Advent, we are reminded that this same Jesus will interrupt history again to bring an end to the cycle of our madness and grant us peace in its place. Even so, come Lord Jesus!
Join us for the next several Sundays as we prepare for the Christmas season.
We will join in worship that has been adjusted for this purpose. We will sing Advent hymns, join in confessions of sin that are bit more robust than normal and have updated rubrics for Advent. For our sermon series, we will use select texts from Luke and elsewhere. We will conclude our keeping of Advent with a modified Advent Feast on December 20th at the Watkins’ home.
We look forward to growing with you during this glorious time of the year.