Well, it’s December and what does that make you think of? Yes, Christmas. We can’t put off thinking about it any longer.
What do you think of first when you think of Christmas? For most of us, most of the time it’s not the coming of Jesus into the world. Oh yes, we think of that all right, but first we think of
- buying presents
- getting presents
- getting the Christmas meal together
- decorating the house
- whose place will Christmas be at this year?
- will Uncle Fred drink too much Christmas cheer again?
- will Auntie Madge and Cousin Dot put aside their differences this year?
- oh, and did I say buying pressies?
Christmas isn’t always a time of perfect bliss. Come to think of it, it’s more often a time of irritation. We tend to have this script inside us that Christmas has to be flawless; when it isn’t, some of us tend to play the blame game, whether we blame ourselves or someone else.
That’s why we really need Advent.
Advent is that lesser-known season of the Church Year which prepares us to celebrate the coming of Jesus into the world. It starts today.
Advent is about the surprising coming of God into the world—in the person of a tiny child, 2000 years ago. Advent is not just about that little child, though. Advent is about the whole of Jesus coming into the world and not just changing it but turning it upside down as God’s justice is established. In the end, it’s about how that what it means to let Jesus come into our hearts. Advent is about how we are meant to live as disciples of Jesus, who is coming into the world even now. It starts here and now!—with Jesus Christ present in our midst to reconcile, heal, deliver, forgive, and renew us.
If Jesus is coming into the world, what sort of world is it? It is a world in which God’s justice may be seen by faith. It’s a world in which groups of people who trust Jesus Christ is among them, groups like us, are a sign of the coming justice of God.
The world is a good place which is in a mess. There is an uneasy truce in the Middle East which may not last. Climate change may well be getting away from us. Asylum seekers are left to rot. The royal commission into child abuse will pull skeletons out of more than a few closets.
The world is a good place which is in a mess, in which we Christians look for signs that God’s reign of justice and peace is coming.
We can only see these signs if we keep our eyes open. We see these signs when the Berlin Wall falls, when Apartheid crumbles, when voiceless people are heard. Jesus is coming as he did the first time—for the lost, the excluded, the poor and needy.
So surprise surprise, Advent isn’t about food and drink and decorations and trees and gifts—and yet more food. Advent is about our lives being turned around time and again as we are moulded more and more into God’s ways of love and faithfulness and forgiveness and justice.
But you know, we forget it every time. We think Advent—December—is all about getting ‘things’ ready for Christmas. But really, Advent is about getting ourselves ready to meet Jesus. Whenever he comes.
And yet we get it wrong year after year. Yet what does God say to us? ‘Let’s try doing that Advent thing again this year!’—because God’s ways of love and faithfulness and justice and forgiveness never run out of puff. They go on forever. God is all about giving us second and third and fourth chances.
Advent is about preparing ourselves for the coming of Jesus—but not just as a child 2000 years ago. Jesus is coming to us right now, through his word and Spirit. We have a hope that the whole world will one day reflect the justice and the joy of God as we have found it in the face of Jesus Christ.
That’s why we baptise people. That’s why we baptised Alexander today. We have brought him into the family of the Church because we believe Jesus is Lord and Saviour. We believe that true life is found through following him and his ways. We believe that when we are told that life is about getting things that are bigger, better, brighter than everyone else, we’re being told a lie.
So in Advent, we try to walk to the beat of a different drum. Let me encourage you to
- Pray—let me suggest two prayers from Henri Nouwen to help you, here and here.
- Read the scriptures—if you don’t have a regular reading habit, try this site.
- Give to the needy—give gifts that benefit the poor. We use the gift-giving guide from Uniting World, but there are others.
- Look for ways to help others—you may be serving the Lord!
And don’t stop once Advent is over—Jesus comes to us all the time. Oh and yes, do get ready for Christmas Day and all that means. Have a great day, expect a great day!—but be kind to one another, don’t expect more out of the day or yourself or your family than you should. Advent really isn’t about having a ‘successful’ Christmas Day. Jesus is the reason for the Advent Season too.