Dear Friends in Christ:
The season of Advent is upon us. Advent has nothing to do with Christmas. Christmas starts on December 25 and lasts for twelve days until Epiphany on January 6. The season of Advent starts either on the Day of St. Martin (Nov. 11) or the Feast of St. Andrew (Nov. 30). In most of the church, it happens in December. Its four Sundays have to do with the return of Jesus Christ as King and Lord. We prepare for this return in the season of Advent. Its bywords are “wait” and “watch. “
Advent is from the Latin word adventus which means the coming. It in turn is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means nearness or more technically, the expected return of Christ. Since Bernard of Clairveaux in the twelfth century, the Western church speaks of the three comings or advents of Christ: In the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and as judge and king at the end of time.
One way to sort things out is to connect the season to a part of the liturgy. If we connect Christmas to the proclamation of the angels reflected in our Gloria in Excelsis (glory to God in the highest), we ought to connect Advent to the Kyrie eleison (Lord, have mercy) in which we express our longing for the return of Christ and the lack of fulfillment to all creation until he does return.
Another way to sort things out is to connect a candle with the scripture readings for each of the Sundays of Advent. The first candle is hope, the second is peace, the third is joy, and the fourth is love. Another system uses verbs: Prepare, Proclaim, Rejoice, and Behold. Actually, the connecting of candles with Sundays comes rather late in the history of the observation of Advent, but the candles do help us to order the season.
The hymns of the Advent season are wonderful. I sing them in my head all week long.
The best way to order the season of Advent is to step away from the screens (television, computer, smart phone, etc.) Use the time saved to reflect on the urgency of our predicament. Read Isaiah, First Corinthians or the Gospel of Mark. Read a devotional for every day in the season of Advent. Keep a journal. Pray in a way that begins with silence and continues with listening. Come out to the special worship services and Sunday services. Throw stuff out. The discipline of getting rid of stuff you do not need might help you clear out the spiritual clutter in your life as well. If you do any of these things, you will at the least emerge from the season better prepared for Christmas, but far better, you will begin to understand why it is we are pilgrims on the earth until the Lord returns and the fullness of God’s Reign is unfurled over all creation.
Yours in Christ,
John Shepherd McKenzie
St. James Lutheran Church of Stewart Manor | 116 Elton Road, Stewart Manor, NY 11530 | 516-352-4099
St. James Lutheran Church
of Stewart Manor