The decorations are up. Holiday songs are playing in all the stores. “It’s a Wonderful Life” is making its rounds through all the networks. So, it must be Christmas season.
However, the Church says, “Not yet, it is only Advent.” I realize that most of our culture rolls its collective eyes when we say that and accuses us of being party poopers. But, Advent is crucial to making sense of the world in which we live. Advent is the season of waiting.
The prayer of Advent is “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Longing, grief, pain, fear, along with faith-filled hopefulness, are the emotions of Advent because Advent is a season of darkness. Christmas is when the Light comes into the world. Advent is waiting in the darkness for the promised Light.
Advent is our perennial season. Though the King came 2,000 years ago to establish His Kingdom, we are still waiting for its fullness. Though the light of the Gospel shines throughout the world, it shines in darkness. We are waiting for the coming of the Light; for the answering of our prayer for God’s kingdom to come. When a man walks into a rural Baptist church one Sunday morning and opens fire on the congregation, we remember we are living in Advent. When a spouse or parent dies of cancer, when millions of women post #metoo on social media, we remember that we are living in Advent. We are surrounded by darkness.
Our culture wants to skip ahead to a holiday celebration. Sentimentality, however, undermines the benefit of embracing Advent. Trees and gifts and holiday specials distract us from the harsh reality of sin and darkness in the world. Much of the world is living in Pottertown (the decimated town that George Bailey sees in “It’s a Wonderful Life”). Advent allows us to stop and notice the darkness. Advent also gives us the opportunity to declare boldly our hope in God’s promises. We believe the Light is coming to fully eradicate the darkness.
So, we need Advent. Not as some joyrobbing set of prohibitions imposed by holier-than-thou church people - as in, “Oh, I see you have already decorated your tree” (said with condescension and disdain). No, we need Advent as a season of hope amid despair; a season of trust in God’s promise; a season of longing for a Kingdom that perfectly displays God’s will. In Advent we declare that we believe that the Light will overcome darkness. May you shine the light of joy and hope in Christ this Advent season as we all await His “coming in glory.”
Standing firm, with you, in our hope in Christ,
Bishop Jim Hobby