Dates: Sunday, December 2nd - Monday, December 24th, 2018
Color: Dark Blue, the color of the pre-dawn sky.
"We do not know why God delays so long. We do not know why he so often hides his face. We do not know why so many have to suffer so much with so little apparent meaning. All we know is that there is this rumor, this hope, this expectation, that the Master of the house is coming back. The church's life in Advent is hidden with Christ until he comes again, which explains why so much of what we do in this night appears to be failure, just as his life appeared to end in failure. The church lives in Advent, The Time Between, 'The Time Being' as Auden calls it. In a very deep sense, the entire Christian life in this world is lived in Advent, between the first and second comings of the Lord, in the midst of the tension between things the way they are and things the way they ought to be.” (Fleming Rutledge, “The Bible & The New York Times,” pg. 29)
“How long, O LORD?
Come, Lord Jesus.”
(Psalm 13:1; Revelation 22:20b)
"Come, Lord Jesus." This is how the story of the Scripture ends: unfinished. Things are not yet as they have been promised to be: a new heavens and new earth; lions laying down with lambs; swords turned into plowshares; justice and righteousness rushing down like mighty streams. In the end, we await the return of Jesus to come and set all things right. There are still pages of history to be written and we find ourselves living in the uncomfortable in-between; the “already and the not yet.”
Advent means a “coming” or “visitation.” That is exactly what we, as followers of Christ, are waiting for: the second coming of the Messiah. This waiting frames our experience in this preparatory season before the great celebration of Christmas. This may come as a surprise to some because in our culture’s conception of this season, we rush headlong into joy, feasting, shopping, and celebration without first taking stock and preparing. In the historic practice of Advent in the Christian Year (dating to at least the 4th Century A.D.), the season is one of preparation, lament, longing, prayer, repentance, hope, and, yes, splendid joy as we wait for return of Christ and prepare to re-tell the life of Jesus from Christmas to Pentecost
This practice of waiting for things of ultimate concern helps us prioritize life in an age obsessed with the temporality of the now and the new. This is truer in the month of December than in any other month, for our culture’s conception of these Holidays (a term that comes from the Christian idea of Holy Days) is largely focused around what one will buy or be given. The marketing and incessant rhythm of our “cultural Christmas” season, however beautiful it may be at times, consistently holds out the promise to us that we can spend and schedule our way to “peace on earth and good will to men,” that we can gloss over all of the problems for a few weeks and pretend that we live in an ideal world of happiness.
The Christian conception of Advent, in contrast to the cultural liturgies of this season, begins with the realization that what, or who, we really want and need cannot be bought and is not “just a click away,” but must be waited for with patience, submitting to God’s timing, embracing our limits and finitude, and living in the hope that springs from knowing Emmanuel in the midst of sin, evil, and tragedy.
During this season, we rehearse the dramatic plot of Scripture, going back in time to revisit the story of God’s creation of the world, its devastating fall into sin and misery, and God’s plan to “visit and redeem” his people in the promised Messiah. In doing so, we find our place within God’s story as a people living in the already and the not yet. We know the Messiah Jesus—Son of God Incarnate, Crucified, Risen, and Ascended—we know where the Story is going, and so we acutely know how unfinished it really is. So we look and love into a world with a holy impatience, wanting our hearts to mirror the King’s and longing for the earth to mirror His Kingdom. This is Advent.