A MESSAGE FROM REV. J.C. AUSTIN: ALREADY BEGINNING TO HAPPEN
When I was a child, Advent always made a lot more sense to me than Lent. In the Christian church, we typically talk about Advent as a season of waiting, and that’s exactly what Advent felt like: waiting for Christmas to come. We had an Advent calendar in my house that was made to look like a Christmas tree, and each day of Advent had a little pocket that held an ornament.
So each morning in Advent my brother and I would get up, and we would take turns snapping the ornament of the day onto one of the branches of the Advent calendar tree. It was how we waited in Advent, marking the time on the tree, even though sometimes it felt that time was somehow slowing down as we did so: “how is it still 16 days before Christmas?!? It’s been forever since we put that first ornament on!”
The first time I saw one of those movies where a prisoner is marking time in a jail cell with little scratches on the wall, I felt like he was making his own Advent calendar to show how long he had been waiting and how long he still had to wait. And that’s often how Advent feels, though as an adult it often feels like time is speeding up as Christmas comes: “how is it only six days before Christmas?!? I’m not ready!”
But that understanding and experience of Advent, though common, is missing a few important things. First, the word “Advent” literally means “coming” or “arriving.” So any “advent” is not about something that is still off in the future; it is about sometime that is already in motion, already beginning to happen.
Which is why, when we light the Advent wreath this Sunday, the Scripture that we read says “the people who walk in darkness have seen a great light,” not “…will see a great light.” It’s already happening!
Second, Advent is not simply about marking time, anticipating the arrival of Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth. It is at least as much about anticipating Christ’s final coming at the end of time to “make all things new,” as the book of Revelation puts it. And so the question is, what does it mean to wait for that? That’s what we will consider in worship this Sunday as we begin Advent together.
So, please remember that there is a special schedule this Sunday, with a single Combined Worship Service at 10 am that will have elements of both contemporary and traditional styles of worship. And following that, there is an Advent Gathering in the Fellowship Hall with food and crafts to help us all begin this season of Advent. I hope to see you there!
Grace and Peace,