November 28, 2016 | JOHN RAY
Think about the difference between a store-bought strawberry in January and one
that’s fresh off the vine in May. There’s simply no comparison. Even in our drive
thru-loving world, there are some things we can’t have on demand, 24/7/365.
Neither can we live our lives expecting to grow and change, to learn and serve,
in a monotonous rhythm of sameness. We need seasonality and variety, regular
cyclical emphases as reminders and ways to dwell deeply and practice faithfully.
The Christian seasons of Advent and Christmas help us do just this.
Christmas actually begins on Christmas Eve and lasts for the following twelve days.
Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas that reflects the longing of the
Jews for a Messiah. Christians are reminded of how much we also
need a Savior as we remember Jesus’ first coming and renew our
longing for His next and final coming.
“Advent” comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming” or “visit.” As we set aside and celebrate the season with this name, Christ-mas, we recognize and dwell deeply in both “advents” of Christ: the first in Bethlehem and the second yet to come. Advent offers us an opportunity to faithfully embrace the three elements of Christian practices of time: eschatological, which means time is linear and moving in a specific direction with a specific purpose; cyclical (not that history repeats itself, but that as Mark Twain famously said, “it often rhymes”); and seasonal.
As we reorient our expectations and affection, our actions and attitudes about Advent, the hope is to make more room, experience more peace, share more love and celebrate with deeper joy our risen and living Savior!
Next Chavurah Meeting is December 4
Christ the King Anglican Church worship, 5 p.m. @ 2828 Crossover in Fayetteville
This will be followed by a potluck afterward, so bring a dish to share.
There are practices that help us reorient our hearts toward Christ and each other.
Having warm, fuzzy feelings and good intentions will never be enough to withstand the onslaught of commercialism, the demands of our circumstances or the weakness of our flesh as we seek to faithfully follow Jesus and be continually transformed into His image, especially at this time of year. It takes intentional, communal and Holy Spirit-infused practices such as these. Will you commit to make them part of your Advent and Christmas celebrations this year?
Repentance Yeah, I know this sound like the Grinch wrote it, but Christmas isn’t only for celebration and revelry; we’ll get to that. It starts, like all legitimate expressions of thanksgiving, worship, and celebration, with repentance. With remembering the reason why we need a savior in the first place, the reason why God chose to go to such extraordinary extremes to redeem and reconcile, to fulfill and make manifest His salvation. If we don’t get this, we miss the whole thing. Make time during Advent to sit with the reality of what our lives would be without God, of the mess we have made of this world that God yet redeems.
Rest If suggesting repentance sounds like the Grinch, suggesting rest sounds like a lunatic's raving’s. Many things about this season may demand significant time and emotional energy, but we don’t do ourselves or anyone else any good by burning out. So practice your daily disciplines, your Sabbath rhythms. Resist the cultural call to Do More! Buy More! Go More! Fight back with purposeful times of rest. Imagine getting to the end of Advent refreshed and recharged.
Worship and Celebration Two things go along with repentance and rest to help accomplish the goal of experiencing a life-giving Advent season: worship and celebration. If we are not intentional about making these the “reasons for the season,” we will spend much more time in the mall, shopping online or worrying over decorations and driving than actually worshipping the One who came and celebrating what His coming means. Make these times a priority, or something else will take their place.
Giving and Receiving While this may seem contrary to everything written above, giving and receiving gifts can be profoundly spiritual acts when done in the right spirit. Giving helps us express appreciation and reflect on what others mean to us and how grateful we are for them. Humbly receiving reflects our need for others and helps make room for grace, so give and receive with humility, thoughtfulness and grace as part of your Advent and Christmas practice.
As you reflect on the above practices, also use this week to catch up on any readings or disciplines from previous weeks.
Resources to facilitate your Advent practices
Reflect (click to read)
“The World As It Is (An Advent Poem),” Brian Zahnd
“What We Get Wrong About Advent,” Relevant
Prayer for the week: God of hope, who brought love into this world, be the love that dwells between us. God of hope, who brought peace into this world, be the peace that dwells between us. God of hope, who brought joy into this world, be the joy that dwells between us. God of hope, the rock we stand upon, be the centre, the focus of our lives always, and particularly this Advent time. Amen.