Advent is not Christmas-lite
Christmas is in the air. I’m sure you’ve heard it the last time you were in a store like Walmart or Target. The decorations are out and those old familiar songs and carols are being played over the store PA system, on the radio and in television commercials. It’s nearly Thanksgiving! That means Christmas is almost here!
This is one of those times of year when the church needs to resist the pull of the culture to conform to its calendar. We need to resist the temptation to bring out the Christmas decorations and begin singing carols to the newborn babe in Bethlehem in worship. We need to remember that Advent is not “Christmas-lite.” In Advent we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus by preparing ourselves for his promised return. This means that to truly celebrate and rejoice in the past event of the incarnation Christians must look toward the future event of God’s coming again to judge, reconcile, heal and restore all of creation.
The lessons for the first Sunday of Advent are an indication of what is to come. They tell us that Christ is coming and those who know him must live as though his return is imminent. This means living as citizens of the kingdom of God; that is both here among us now and is coming. These texts tell us that the God who has come and is coming is awesome, powerful, just, and righteous beyond our feeble imaginations. This God is not the warm and good-natured buddy he is portrayed to be in so much contemporary music, preaching and writing. Isaiah and Jesus tell us that God is coming to judge the world and that the outcome of that judgment will likely not be what we expect. This will be bad news to the wicked, the unjust, and the proud. The good news is that God and not one of us will be doing the judging.
If the church chooses to truly embrace and observe a holy Advent it will be a powerful witness to Christ and his coming reign on earth as it is in heaven. What a powerful witness Christians could be if we resisted the temptation to participate in the orgy of consumerism, consumption, and gluttony that has become so typical of this time of year. What a powerful witness the church could give it were to call all Christians to observe a holy fast from consuming and dedicated themselves to serving with and alleviating the suffering of the poor, the sick, and prisoners.