From The Pastor’s Desk
Preparing the Way: Why the Rush?
Once again, we come to that time of year where I have to admit that there is more than a little bit of Grinch in me. Every year, it seems Christmas tries to arrive earlier and earlier. I noticed that before Halloween decorations are even off the shelf, there are Christmas displays lurking in the aisles. We haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving and radio stations have already begun playing Christmas music! And once again, I find myself asking, why? Why all the rush?
It is not because I don’t enjoy some of those festive things associated with the holiday season, but because I want so badly for all of us to slow down and hold onto the practice of Advent – to say – not yet! There will be plenty of time to celebrate, but it always feels like there is such precious little time to prepare for the things that matter most. So why the rush?
Advent gets really lost in the shuffle of seasonal chaos – the ridiculously early arrival of Christmas junk in all the stores, the commercialism of toys and Santa and stuff, the intensity of parties and food and beverages and even having to pretend to like all the festivities – it can be pretty intense. But rushing through Advent only to get to Christmas means that we don’t fully prepare ourselves for what we hope to encounter when what we long for finally arrives. Maybe that is part of the problem, we don’t really know what we long for anymore.
In a world that often feels like it is spinning out of control, Advent can help us make space to wrestle with the somber reality of life that knows all too well that sweet carols on the radio and brightly lit trees don’t mean everything is okay. As Christians we know that in Christ it has all been accomplished, that God has reconciled the world – and yet, the kingdom has not yet come into its fullness. There are still hungry, lonely, and forgotten people who want needlessly in a world of plenty. There are empty seats around our tables from people we miss, and ways in which our own lives and certainly our world is not yet as we hope it will be.
Advent is the season of “already/not yet”: Christ has already come/Christ has not yet returned. I am a believer/God help my unbelief. I am a complete human as I am/I am still learning to be fully human. Advent carries the weight of the end times balanced with the hope of the Kingdom of God. Advent is a season of penitence and introspection, a time for prayer and silence, and a time of thinking through what the Church is, and what it will become. That’s why we light candles, listen to the prophets, read about John the Baptist, and focus on confession and spiritual growth. We remember Christ coming as a vulnerable baby and hope for the coming of Christ the Prince of Peace.
We know the destination of Christmas, but what path will we take in our travels through Advent to get there? What path will help us best prepare or even discover what we long for most? What if we take a path less traveled this season? What if we searched for the manger using God’s Way of hope, peace, joy and love as if they are points on a compass and we are seeking ways to live authentic and faithful lives to a story that has transformed us and wants to do so again? What might we see in an otherwise routine and annual story? What unexpected turns will we take? What stops will we make along the way?
I’m looking forward to our journey together and what God will reveal to us along the way and on Christmas Day. I’m looking forward to searching for God’s Way this Advent through our bible study and conversations, through our giving and reflections on stewardship, and by simply taking time to slow down and cultivate a heart for God in Advent as we learn the ways God would make us living examples of God’s presence in the world.