Reflections on how Christians help each other to grow and mature in loving God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love their neighbor as themselves.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Challenge of Advent

Advent is a challenging time of the Christian calendar. It is difficult to keep because it always gets swallowed up by Christmas. When we get to the first Sunday of Advent the world around us is well into Christmas music, Christmas programs, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, and Christmas decorations and cards. When people go to worship that day and hear in the Gospel lesson the adult Jesus, shortly before his trial and crucifixion, talking about the coming day when he, the “Son of Man,” will return to judge the world they wonder “what’s this got to do with Christmas?”

If you read the Scripture lessons from the Old and New Testaments selected for the Sundays of Advent you very quickly see that the season is much more about the second coming of Christ than it is about his first coming. The four Sundays leading to Christmas are time for the church to look toward the future before it celebrates the past event of Jesus’ birth. This is the one time in the liturgical calendar the church devotes to reflection on the promised future God has in store for the world and its people. We get a glimpse of that future in the Old Testament lesson for today (Isaiah 2:1-5).

The theme for today, the first Sunday of Advent, is watchfulness. Are we paying attention? If Christ were to return today, would we, would you, be ready? Or, would we be too busy shopping, spending, eating, and partying with the rest of the world to be aware of the signs of Christ’s coming reign on earth as it is in heaven?

Christ’s invitation to us in Advent is also a challenge. It is an invitation because it is a gift of grace, hope, and freedom. It is challenge because it is counter-cultural. If we accept his invitation we will resist the world and its materialism, individualism, nationalism, racism, and narcissism. Christ’s invitation is to watch and be ready for the day he will come again. Paul describes it well when he says: “Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness,
and put on the armor of light,
now in the time of this mortal life
in which your Son Jesus Christ
came to visit us in great humility;
that in the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge both the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who lives and reigns
with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen


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