An Invitation to Advent.
I am not sure if you’ve noticed, but many people seem to be rushing into Advent and the Christmas season this year. Stores stocked their Christmas merchandise sooner than usual. Friends of mine post about how their trees and decorations are going up early this year (and they don’t care who judges them!) In fact, even at our home, we have put up lights for the first time ever and (as I type this) Christie is currently playing Christmas music in the living room as we work around the house.
As we look back on 2020, it’s no wonder why we are in a hurry to sit in a season of lights, songs, and gift-giving. For the last eight months, we have woken up every morning thinking about COVID-19, the election, racial tensions, and our own personal challenges. We are tired, weary, traumatized, angry, and exhausted. 2020 has been a long sad song on repeat and we are over it.
We are longing for something better; something hopeful, peaceful, joyful, and loving. We want a new song for our weary souls. A spirit of anticipation and watchfulness inspire us to hurry up and wait on the Lord.
This is Advent.
Advent is the time of waiting expectantly for Jesus’s arrival. The church looks back into redemptive history and testifies to the first arrival of King Jesus, and we now wait and look forward to his return. We are not, however, without the presence of God. In the person of the Holy Spirit, God is still with us (O Come, O Come Emmanuel!) So, the church looks to the past in thankfulness, expects God’s sovereign intervention in the present, and awaits his return in the future when all things will be finally set right.
But let’s be honest. Even now, things are hard. Loved ones have passed. Families have been wrecked by political ideologies and allegiances. Jobs have been lost. Emotional health is in further decline. Injustice unfolds on the screens before us. I mean, Jesus promised us that life would hard, but sometimes we never thought it would be this hard. As Thanksgiving and Christmas draw near, our dining table might be smaller; our friends and family more distant; and all this with a looming skepticism and uncertainty about what 2021 will look like for us. It’s very dark out there.
This is Advent.
The longing for hope, peace, joy, and love are birthed out of God’s people waiting, wondering, and wandering in darkness. The Christmas story is preceded with years of sin, rebellion, injustice, oppression, and heartache. In fact, the prophecy that spoke of a child being born to a young (virgin) woman who would be called Immanuel was given in the context of despair and disruption. King Ahaz was a self-dependent, morally debased, and an obsessive king. His people were hanging on by a thread after an attempted siege, and now war was coming yet again and, this time, the odds were not in their favor - they wouldn't survive. God promised he would intervene, but rather than trusting the LORD, Ahaz sold his soul to the empire of Assyria for protection, which led to even darker days (Isa. 7:1-25, 2 King 16:3-4). A shadow of suffering hovered over God’s people, and they didn't have a good king. Oh, how they longed for one. The promise of Immanuel was both a judgement on the present evil and a promise of hope for the faithful remnant who trusted God. The judgment on evil meant that goodness was on its way, but it would take some time. It's important to reflect on this truth: We long for the light and goodness precisely because we our soul's know that thing are not the way they ought to be. But for now, we wait.
Advent is the space of faithful endurance against all odds. It's at these moments when faith transcends what makes sense - walking away, joining the chaos, or taking matters into my own hands. That seems logical, yet trust in God says, "Wait without wandering away."
The invitation to Advent is an honest one. There is grief, mourning, hunger, thirst, and doubt. We don't shy away from that. Yet, this invitation is also one of hope, peace, joy, and love. In Christianity, you can hold both realities: present struggle and promised hope. You aren't told to simply be optimistic, or to pretend things aren't as bad as they are. You're invited to acknowledge hardship for what it is and to navigate through (not around) it with hope in Christ with others who are doing the same. If the Christmas story is true, then there is sure hope, peace, joy, and love that has come for you and will continue to do so.
This is Advent.
If you are not involved in another church or you are looking for a place to contemplate Christmas, I invite you into Advent with The Table Community Church. This year we are doing something different. We are exploring the songs of Christmas that connect to Scripture and can move us closer to the Light in the darkest of days. We are seeing how Jesus fulfills the craving for a new song in 2020. Our them will be, "Songs for Weary Souls." We start this Sunday, November 29th.
If you are interested in participating, visit thetablechurch.online and send us a note. We have some online spaces for you to connect with others, have meaningful conversations, ask questions, and celebrate the love of God in Jesus Christ, the Good King.
You can also join our Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/861236527622109 and keep up with what’s going on around The Table.
Much hope, peace, joy, and love to you all during this Advent season.
Pastor | The Table Community Church