At Christ Church in 2017, we'd like to be a bit more intentional than we were last year about preparing for and building expectation toward Christmas Day. Throughout the centuries, one way the Church has done this is observing the Advent Season. Perhaps you've never thought about Advent as something as beneficial. You're certainly not alone. Timothy Paul Jones writes:
Advent has fallen on hard times. In the Protestant and free-church traditions, the loss is somewhat understandable; we Baptists in particular tend to be suspicious of anything with origins in ancient or medieval tradition. Yet even in congregations that closely follow the rhythms of the church year, the meaning of Advent seems in danger of being misplaced. By the closing week of November, any sense of waiting has been eclipsed by the nativity scene in the lobby, the tannenbaum in the hall, and the list of Christmas parties in the newsletter.
But why has Advent fallen on hard times?
Perhaps because Christmas is about celebration, and celebrations can be leveraged to move products off shelves. Advent is about waiting, and waiting contributes little to the gross domestic product.
In a religious milieu that has fixated itself on using Jesus to provide seekers with their most convenient lives here and now, Advent is a particularly awkward intrusion. Advent links our hearts with those of ancient prophets who pined for a long-promised Messiah but passed long before his arrival.
In the process, Advent reminds us that we, too, are waiting.
So the building expectation of Advent brings slowness and sobriety to an often frantic holiday season, and it forces us to patiently wait, which something that we rarely must do as 21st Century Americans. And Lord willing, as our awareness for the first coming of Christ is heightened, our longing and expectation for his second advent will increase as well.
In the coming the four Sundays of Advent, we plan to preach through a text that highlights one of the four traditional Advent themes of hope, peace, joy, and love.
This Sunday, we'll be handing out copies of Tim Chester's The One True Light which fitting with our current preaching series, is a daily Advent devotional through the Gospel of John.
Additionally, if you're looking for something more to do with children, Marty Machowski's Prepare Him Room is an excellent resource for families. And if you already own The Jesus Storybook Bible (this is an incredible secret!), Sally Lloyd-Jones has included 21 stories from the Old Testament followed by three stories of Jesus' birth making for an excellent 24-day family devotional.
A month from now, might the Lord stir in us—as individuals and together as a church—a more hopeful and expectant prayer of O come, O come Emmanuel.
Even so, come Lord Jesus!