Why 2020 Needs Advent

This Sunday, November 29th, is the first Sunday of the season of Advent. For those of you, like me, who did not grow up in a faith tradition that observed the seasons of the church calendar, Advent is the beginning of the Christian Liturgical Calendar. The “New Year’s Day” of the Christian world. It always begins four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve. 

I have no memory of Advent until my college years, and even then it was just a mediocre-chocolate calendar we used to count down the days until Christmas. What I do remember is wanting badly for Christmas to be more about Jesus and less about “stuff” and I didn’t know how to make that happen. Everywhere you turned in December the “stuff” of Christmas was shoved in your face. 

Christmas had been commercialized by the culture and sentimentalized by the Church. 

Then I discovered the Liturgical Calendar. Not that it needed “discovering”. For centuries people have been observing this cyclical calendar that tells the story of Jesus every year. Great comfort can be found in the annual rhythms of this story. It is intentional repetition. In a world that tells us that we need to “live a big story”, living this cycle of celebrations and feast days reminds us that we ARE living in a big story - it’s just not a story about us

Tsh Oxenreider, in her new book “Shadow and Light: A Journey Into Advent” says “The word Advent come from the Latin adventus, which means coming or visit….As we prepare, we remember history’s longing for a Messiah before Jesus’s birth and what it would have been like to wait and wonder. Advent is also a reminder of our anticipation of the return of Christ, when he will restore the earth to its original state and make right all wrongs. The season is a recognition of the current state of life here on earth, acknowledging the fraught tension of living between the time of the already of the first Advent of God and the not yet of its full, redemptive completion. Advent is about remembering that Christ has already come to save the world while recognizing that the work of redemptions will not be finished until he comes again.”

I love that. The already. And the not yet.

I don’t know about you, but this year in particular I need to be reminded of this. In a time of lockdowns, mask wearing, social distancing, and hand sanitizing it’s easy to get wrapped up in how hard things are and how small our circles have become. It can be lonely and stressful and confusing. I need Advent more than I ever have before. 

I need the reminder that this is not my story, this is God’s story and I get to be a small but important part of it. I need to be reminded that even though the world around me seems to be crumbling - the cycle begins again. Yet again we are drawn into the story of Jesus, beginning with his birth and right up until Pentecost, year after year, decade after decade, century after century. 

We live this story. We embody this story. History is His-story and we have the amazing privilege of participating in this story—through faith we are connected to Christ but also to every Christian that has ever lived. 

2020 needs Advent. We need to remember, yet again, the visit of Jesus and how he saved us from ourselves. We need to be reminded of the second coming of Jesus and how, yet again, He will save us from ourselves. 

Ultimately, it’s a story of hope. And humanity is in desperate need of hope. 

“This baby would be like that bright star shining in the sky that night. A Light to light up the whole world. Chasing away darkness. Helping people see. And the darker the night got, the brighter the star would shine.” (Jesus Storybook Bible)

This is how our hearts are stilled. This is how our fears are dispelled!

Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” as we begin the holiday season. And with our gaze fixed on Jesus, His perfect love will cast out our fear. And as Advent reminds us - He will fill us with hope, peace, joy, love, and ultimately Himself.

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