Some of us are more familiar with the season of Advent than others. Advent was officially recognized as a season of the church calendar around the 5th Century. For the first couple hundred years Christians were primarily discussing the death and resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, their collective conscience began to lose touch with the importance of the incarnation, they began to forget about the vitally important significance of God becoming human. So they initiated a the season of Advent to keep things square. I would argue that Advent practice is as equally important in the 21st Century as it was in the 5th Century. The four weeks leading up to Dec. 25th are set aside for the purpose of preparing ourselves to receive the gift of Jesus Christ, fully God – fully human.
Similar to our fourth century brothers and sisters in faith, we must never forget that Christmas is about God becoming a human being. Consider with me the million or so times in the last couple of weeks you’ve heard someone or an ad on TV or the radio or a Hallmark movie tell you — what Christmas is all about: everyone getting along, being together with family, generosity, enjoying a great meal, Christmas is about love and lights and presents. My point is that if Christians don’t practice Advent, the common cultural understanding might supplant the true meaning of season. Great meals, family togetherness, lights, presents are emblematic and all point to the real gift of the season. We must never forget that Christmas is about is God getting to us.
In other words, the message of “family togetherness” is not the same size, magnitude or scope as the message of God becoming human. God getting to us — is the story of Christmas.
During Advent Christians recalibrate our hearts to remain singularly focused on the message of God’s arrival, of God getting to us, of God emptying himself and becoming a weak frail human being on our behalf. During Advent we recalibrate our hearts by preparing a landing pad for God in our lives. Counter to all the things we might be better off forgetting about 2020, Advent is an invitation to remember! This kind of remembering is exactly the antidote that many of us need. We must remember that we are not alone, that God has made a way, that God is with us, that the Word became flesh and dwells among us. We remember verses like John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. And God’s promise to always love us and be near us always in Romans 8:38 “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This is a different year. Perhaps the corrective we need is simply jarring our memory and awakening to what this season is truly all about. Church in the Tetons will be gathering outside at the Driggs City Center for a brief service on Dec. 24th at 5 p.m. Please join us as we light candles, sing the ancient hymns, read the ancient texts, in an effort to never forget and celebrate the incarnation.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.