Christmas is a time of remembering and celebrating that God took on human form to come save his people. Traditionally, Christmas has been celebrated on Christmas day and the twelve days following. The season of Advent has been used to help prepare the church to celebrate Christmas well. Covering the four Sundays leading up to Christmas day, Advent is a season of waiting and hoping that heightens our awareness of God’s promises and actions.
The word “Advent” means “coming”. The Church observes this season to help enhance our wonder at the truth that God comes to us. We will spend time remembering the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but also anticipating the second coming of Jesus in power to make all things new. Advent is a season of eagerly awaiting the promised second coming of our King as a way to prepare our hearts to celebrate the fulfilled promises of the first coming of our King.
Advent is a season where we try to walk in the “already/not-yet” tension of the gospel. Jesus has already come in the fulfillment of God’s promises and to establish his gracious reign as King. But the final fulfillment of the promises and the completion of his kingdom has not yet arrived. We can celebrate and enjoy the good things in life now, while knowing the best is yet to come. And we can be honest about the hard, broken, and unfinished nature of our lives by patiently awaiting what is to come. In the Season of Advent our souls wait in stillness, our minds anticipate the future, and our hearts begin to long for our coming King. In the Season of Christmas, our hearts rejoice, our minds remember, and our souls rest assured in the already-come King.
The Season of Advent is not about itself. It is about God coming to us. By spending the Advent season waiting and hoping and longing for the second coming, we prepare ourselves to celebrate the first coming. We are able to more fully understand the passages of the Israelites waiting for their coming king when we have spent time waiting for our coming king. We are able to more fully love and cherish the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah’s birth when we have spent time praying for the New Testament promises of the second coming to be fulfilled. When we spend time crying out “Come Lord Jesus!”, the incarnation becomes an assurance to us that the promises are true, Jesus has come to us, and will again. We want to embrace the tension we live in by spending this season waiting and hoping together.
HOW WE WILL PARTICIPATE IN ADVENT AT OUR GATHERINGS
LITURGY - A church’s liturgy is what it’s people do when they come together. When Veritas gathers on Sunday mornings, we engage with God, embrace the Gospel, and encourage one another as God meets with us, shows us his grace, and builds us up as his people. During Advent the readings, prayers, and songs of our liturgy will focus on the second coming of Jesus to make all things new. The sermon series “The Servant Songs of Isaiah” will look at four songs pointing to the coming of Jesus and assuring us that God fulfills his promises. We will sing traditional Christmas carols as well as songs of waiting and lament. We will also use some decorations in our gathering space that use traditional colors and textures associated with the waiting and hoping themes of Advent.
LAMENT - During our Pastoral Prayer we will spend some time lamenting. To lament is to cry out to God in response to events that don’t line up with God’s character or Kingdom. In Advent, as we anticipate the day when all things will finally and fully line up with God’s character and Kingdom, we can be honest about the broken and unfinished nature of the world we live in. We will have note cards and pens available for us to participate in the lament by writing down things in our lives that we look forward to being no more upon Jesus’ return. Examples might include sickness, relational struggles, anxiety, depression, pain, poverty, hunger, fatherlessness, and racial divides. Note cards can be brought up and placed on the communion table or around the pulpit as a physical reminder that we are bringing our requests to God, and he hears us. The Pastor will pray for them all at once without reading any of them aloud. While lament is not the theme of Advent, it is one of the ways God invites us to engage with him when we are aware of the “already/not-yet” tension we live in.
HOW WE CAN PARTICIPATE IN ADVENT AT HOME
There are many simple traditions people have used to remind them of the season we are in at home in addition to our Gatherings. Some people set an extra place at the dinner table to remind them that Jesus is not with us physically, though we wish he was. Some people have four advent candles, lighting an additional candle each week to show the light coming into the world, and the slow passage of time as we wait. Some people fast from dessert at certain meals to remind them that our celebration in this world is not complete. Some refrain from certain activities or entertainment that we tend to use when we are troubled or tired in order to enhance our feeling of longing. Some read an Advent devotional or the first 25 chapters of “The Jesus Storybook Bible”. There are many ways for us to creatively remember the unfinished story we are in, and build anticipation as we wait to celebrate together.
We are eager to spend these seasons of waiting and celebrating together as a church. None of the practices above are rules we must follow as Christians. But we do think some of these practices can be helpful as we seek to follow Jesus as His church in this unfinished world we live in. We are free to continue celebrating Christmas in the fun ways we’ve come to love while also remembering the best is yet to come. Please be praying that during this Season of Advent our church would be built up, our faith made stronger, and our love for Jesus magnified for the world to see.