Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dwelling in Advent

Hands down, Advent is my favorite time of the Christian year. Traditionally pastors and churches will focus their Advent celebrations on the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love, but I think most of all I get caught up in the hope more than the others.

Christmas is a glorious celebration, but the commercial version of it has gotten superficial; it has become inauthentic in many ways. The commercial version of Christmas paints a picture that is rosier than many people face. It’s a round-bellied, chortling man who gives us any wish we can dream. It’s a table full of good food and scrumptious smells, joyful carols in the background. It’s a sweet-cheeked chubby baby cooing and gurgling in the hay.

The commercial version of Christmas forgets that there are bellies that will not be full. There are places in the world where food is scarce and water is dangerous to consume. There are babies who aren’t warmly received into their families, abused or worse. The commercial version of Christmas has little important to say to these realities of life.

That’s why I love Advent. In Advent there is room for the tragedies of life. In Advent there are people crying out for God’s justice, God’s intervention. In Advent there are questions about who God is and what God will do, but there are also answers. And in the answers there are promises. Advent is a season of hope.

It is a time when we recognize that right now the world is not a perfect place. Right now there is pain and suffering and sighing. Right now things aren’t going the way we would like, but there is still hope. As unlikely as it was for that young mother Mary to become pregnant, keep her betrothed, travel to a new city, give birth in a stable, and raise her child under Roman oppression, by the grace of God it all happened. As unlikely as it was for him to preach, teach, minister and heal, speaking and acting out against the religious and civil leaders, by the grace of God it all happened. As incredibly unlikely as it was for him to be humiliated, killed, but then rise again from the dead, by the grace of God it happened, and because of this we can have hope.

We can have hope, confidence in the promises that are yet to be fulfilled, that God is conquering poverty, hunger, and injustice. We can have hope that God is defeating oppression and sin, even sin in our own lives. We can have hope darkness cannot overcome the Light of the world, Jesus whose birth we celebrate this year. Dwell this year in Advent for a little while. Face the realities of life around us with hope in Christ our Lord.

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