Every year as Advent begins, I feel like I must come up with a compelling reason to encourage those around me to become part of the Advent disciplines. For over sixteen year’s I have written newsletter articles, blog post and sermons advocating for a deeper connection to the religious reality of the season. I suppose that for some, these encouragements may have had an effect. I have a suspicion that for most of us the external pressures put upon us trump any well-intended messages.
I have to admit that this is at times a bit frustrating. As the world spins up the commercial Christmas machine I feel like I need to be an advocate for the true message of the birth of the Messiah. Yet, I know that my words are like a grain of sand on a barren desert of Christmas sales and parties.
Each year, along with Barbara Stefan our Music Director, we make a conscious effort to put our own well being at risk by keeping Christmas Carols out of Advent. Yes, there are people who think that Pastors and Music Directors who don’t let Carols be sung before Christmas should be fired. I have been asked, “why don’t you just make folks happy and sing carols before Christmas.” Trust me, it would be easier, but not very helpful. If we simply jump into Christmas how do we connect to the expectation that all creation should have? How do we prepare the way of the Lord if we move directly to the Manger?
For some this is just a theological chess match. I would contend that it isn’t a game. How we worship guides how we live. In a world that is filled with a distorted view of Christmas and overwhelming despair, the themes of Advent are critical for our spiritual health. Finding meaning in the hope, peace, joy and love of God is critical for our very soul. When we purposefully slow down and resist the negative and consumer messages, we reset our spiritual mindset.
This week we are immersed in the Hope of Advent. Recent experiences and events in the world certainly have made highlighting Hope apropos. We are constantly in a state of needing to revive our hope. Current political discourse, terrorist activity, racial division and scores of other issues have undermined our hope. Part of this is due to the fact that we have sought to find our hope in the wrong places. Much of today’s news shows us clearly that our systems and structures have failed to provide what they often promise. Safety, security, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are continually being challenged. This is due to the fact that we have placed our hope in broken human beings and social order. The hope we find knocking at the door during Advent is from an eternal source.
During worship this week I tired to highlight with the children, the fact that our hope in Christ comes from the fact that we have seen the promises of God continually kept. We hope in Christ because throughout time when God has made promises to the people, God has come through on them. It is incumbent upon us to take this time of Advent to reconnect our trust in the “hesed” or steadfast love of God. This is the foundation of our hope. Even when the world and its promises fail, God’s hesed is everlasting. The prophet Isaiah speaks boldly about the reality of the hope we can have in God’s love and promise when he proclaims:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
- How does the Advent season prepare you for embracing the Messiah?
- Where do you find your hope?
- How do you experience the “hesed” or steadfast love of God in your life?