This is one of those years when the fourth Thursday in November and the fourth Sunday before Christmas are three days apart. Hardly have we recovered from our Thanksgiving Day feasts and family reunions than we light the first candle on the Advent Wreath. Maybe it is good that Advent comes so quickly, jarring our attention away from football and shopping and towards preparation and waiting.
In the tradition of the church year, of which Advent is the first season, we begin our preparations for the celebration of Jesus’ nativity not by a frenzied home decorating spree or fighting the mobs at the mall, but by remembering that the Feast of the Nativity, Christmas, marks the first coming of Christ – as a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger – and that Jesus promised a second coming, as well – bringing us to himself, “so that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
As is our custom at LPC, we are providing Advent Devotional booklets for every family in the congregation. They will be available on the Narthex and Chapel information tables on Sunday. This year’s booklet is titled “Elements of Advent.” I encourage you to use the devotional in addition to whatever else you may use. There is something good about all of us being nurtured from the same material. Elements of Advent is also available as a $.99 Kindle or Nook download for those of us who would prefer an electronic version. There’s also a collection of newly-written Christmas songs designed to accompany the devotional readings. The link is available in the booklet or you may listen here.
Following the tradition of the first Sunday in Advent reminding us that Jesus will come again, our devotional reminds us that “our Advent journey calls us to a state of readiness…” In tomorrow’s first reading we are told that “readiness in Advent is not so much about storing away supplies and equipment for the ‘end.’ Readiness means being aligned and ‘stored up’ with the Good News of Jesus our Savior, who promises a new beginning.”
Sometimes it seems like a losing battle, this yearly reminder that Advent is not just the countdown to Christmas, that preparation is more than a check-list of presents bought and cards sent, that waiting is more than a child’s anticipation of the that night when the stockings are hung by the chimney with care. It seems like a losing battle.
The armies of retailers and secularists, the cynical and the bitter, arrayed against us are formidable. But in the words of the old hymn, “though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.”Angel choirs sang “peace on earth, goodwill to men with whom he is pleased” at the First Advent. At the Second Advent we will hear a loud voice from the throne say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3-4)
As our Advent devotional says, being prepared for Advent is being “stored up” with the Good News. Waiting at Advent is living out that same Good News, that Gospel, as men and women of faith, grace, good will and love.