The Journey: Countdown to Christmas

Posted by Rev. Daniel Christian on

                     When my column is published on Dec. 2 we will have 22 shopping days left before Christmas. The shopping season in the Christian Calendar is called Advent. I know many of you already know this. My wife and I can’t seem to find an Advent calendar for our daughter because they are sold out. So, I know you know about Advent, otherwise she and I would not be empty handed wandering around stores only to hear, “sorry pastor you are out of luck.” What is Advent anyway and can we learn anything from it?

Advent can be very difficult for us ministers. This is because our culture and our Christian calendar just don’t match up together. We couldn’t be further from each other. On one hand, the Bible verses are about spiritual darkness, waiting, shaking, foreboding and justice.

On the other hand, Christmas in our culture is about fulfillment, celebration and often excess consumption and consumerism. Come Jan. 1 we will all be inundated with weight loss and gym membership advertisements.

If you had to choose between the Advent foreboding party or the Christmas party which one would you want to go to? Exactly my point! Try as I might I just can’t seem to get any “yes” Evite responses to my Advent darkness party.

The tension points between faith and culture are real. Our Bible readings do not have one story of sleigh bells, singing snowmen, and Rudolph is nowhere to be found. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the sentimentality and festivities of Christmas. Elf on Shelf is on the move and I have my candy cane martini glasses in full holiday rotation.

Advent means “coming” or “arrival” from the Greek, advenio, “to come.” Advent is a time of darkness. In darkness we are prepared. In darkness, much like the womb we are growing. In darkness we are made ready for God’s radical entrance into our lives and world.

Out of that dark silence nothing can prevent the miracle of birth from happening. Isn’t that wonderful? Nothing can stop new life from being created. Not disease. Not depression. Not distance. Not even shopping.
Spiritual preparation and the birth analogy are not that far apart. At some point, after all the waiting and readiness, it is happening. Like it or not, here it comes. In that instant, your life is transformed. What was is no longer. What is now stands before you in a new and glorious way. Out of the darkness, by the hands of God, your long-awaited hope emerges.

Hope and expectation are essential for any possibility for renewal and restoration.

Yet, through that darkness we are not just left with shaking, foreboding and fear. Rather, if we look beneath the anxiety of the day, we see another picture all together. We see a promise from God that never disappears. We see God’s promises that are as sure as God’s creation, no matter what uncertainty we face.

Whatever your mood, Advent is an intentional time, an expectant time, to ready yourself for the birth of something new and Holy in your life. If you are worried, anxious, sad, confused, thankful, joyous or deliriously happy; Advent invites each of us to look inward, so we can move outward into something new that God calls us to do.

Where is your life in need of restoration? Where is your life in need of renewal? Where in your life do you search for hope?
Advent is so much more than “getting ready for Christmas.” It is a season that bids us to be on spiritual high alert or readiness. I use high alert with caution. Sadly, we associate this message with the unstable guy who wears a sandwich board over him and is proclaiming the end of days. He stands on the corner near my house and I am sure he has cousins who stand in your communities too. I am talking about something more life giving, loving and healing.

No matter how big or small you think your life is, God leads you through the darkness, toward the light of Hope. It is there in the darkness a new and lightened pathway will emerge.

Rev. Daniel Christian is the Pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Ukiah