December 1, 2013

Questions for Advent

Today, I had the privilege of preaching at St. John's, Norwood, where my friends and fellow Fuller Seminary grad's Sari Ateek and Sarah Lapenta-H lead. It's the first Sunday in Advent today. I shared some thoughts, or more accurately some questions I'm asking myself at the beginning of this Advent seasons this year.

WHY Advent?
Folks without a particular kind of Christian experience may know nothing of this season. Advent is a season of waiting and preparing in the Christian calendar. We retell the stories that lead up to Christ's birth. We read Scripture passages that remind us of what it was like for God's people to await a Savior. But why?

Personally? Because I need it. I need to enter into something that contrasts the manic commercial holiday season that begins on Black Friday. There is a website, that does exactly what it's name implies, it counts the deaths and injuries suffered during Black Friday sales.

But it seems to me that we all need to be able to answer in our own words the why for Advent. We live in a culture that needs another way, that needs good news in such frenetic season.

WHAT are we waiting for?
Matthew 1 reads, "... All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us.'" In Luke 2 it says, "... But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord.'" (emphasis mine) The Gospels tell the story of Jesus' birth in a manner that assumes God's presence amongst us–amidst ordinary people–is good news. That's what we wait for; for God's presence in our midst. And that's good news.

HOW do we prepare?
In one of today's readings from the prophet Isaiah, the Hebrews refashion their weapons of warfare into tools for gardening, tools that give life rather than take it away. In their waiting, they are proactive–they are preparing for a new way of living. How we wait is important. It isn't a passive waiting. It's active creative, preparation.

WHO are we waiting for?
Too often, we shy away from talking about Jesus. But that is who we are waiting on. In another reading from today, the Romans passage, Paul calls his fellow Christians not only to say the name of Jesus but to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We await a Lord, a King who rules and reigns in the most unconventional of ways. If it is this Jesus that we follow, how do we "put on" such a God?

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