Do You Celebrate Advent With Your Church Family?
Advent is one of the most important seasons of the Christian calendar. It saddens me that many non-liturgical churches dismiss Advent as ‘something they don’t do,’ because of its liturgical nature. Even though I grew up in a non-liturgical church, we participated in Advent each year, and for the past five years, have had the privilege of leading our local church in doing the same. Does your church family celebrate advent?
Our version of Advent is family and community based. We still read a prepared script, but each week is led by a different family, couple, or group of friends. They read Scripture, a short advent reading, light the corresponding candle, and pray. It doesn’t have to be completely scripted, but providing scripted text increases the number of people who are willing to participate.
That said, celebrating Advent is beyond the ritual of reading and lighting a candle. In fact, the journey towards the manger is also bigger than Jesus’ birth. Advent literally exemplifies ‘God with us.’ It’s powerful and should inspire all of us to launch into a new year with great expectations and inspiration for ministry.
I think of Advent in three basic ways:
The whole purpose of the Church gathering together on Sunday is about community. Together, we anticipate the arrival of Jesus and journey towards the manger.
The evergreen wreath symbolizes the unity of the trinity and God’s unending love, but our partnership in community symbolizes how we all share in that unity, as a body of believers as well.
So when we join together, to read Scripture and light a candle each week, we are participating in one of the most extraordinary acts of unity and community. When we participate in Advent, we are celebrating how God is with us in community.
We often ask why Jesus had to die, but have we pondered why Jesus ‘became flesh’ in the first place?
Jesus was in the beginning. He was with God, and He was, in fact, God Himself (John 1). What makes the manger so amazing is that God wanted to experience what we all experience – life on earth.
Jesus experienced life and all the temptations that go with it, just like you and I (Hebrews 4:15). The manger is the beginning of that humble experience. The God who always existed, became flesh to inspire us in ministry, lead us to freedom, and arise to be eternally present with us every step of the way (Matthew 28:20).
Advent is the introduction of what holds all Christians together – a God who gives us hope, loves unconventionally, gives us joy every day, and provides peace in moments of chaos.
Advent doesn’t start in the New Testament. Advent starts with the anticipation found in the Old Testament. When we read about the prophesied Messiah, we are given a glimpse of the beginning of advent.
Advent continues into the gospel of the New Testament, and launches us into ministry today.
While it really isn’t conventional to use Luke 4:18-19 on Christmas Eve, it’s one of my favourite Scriptures to use. Jesus’ mission becomes the focus of Advent, which in turn, becomes our ministry of Advent.
Just as Jesus came to bring hope, love, joy and peace, we also engage the world in the same way. Our ministry is an extension of His. During Advent, we get to re-experience God becoming flesh and move forward knowing that He’s actively participating with us in ministry.
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