For sermon videos, reflections, art and more check out our 2018 Advent Gallery
As a new experiment, First Lutheran will have a seasonal theme that runs through our ministry, from worship and Faith Growth time, to other areas as well. Some will be for a season of the church year, other times the theme will go for a month at a time. Each one will be introduced with a short article / devotional. I will be looking for other ways to connect these themes to our life together and when we are away from here. Our first theme for this Advent is “Awaiting Dawn: Hope in Darkness.”
I am going to start by saying that one of the pieces of Advent that the church sometimes does is trash “secular Christmas” with an arrogance that says “Christmas isn’t until December 25th” and tries to make Advent a rule. Sometimes our piety looks down on all the ways we celebrate Christmas, like decorating with snowmen and such, lights and tinsel.
I’m over it. It comes up a bit tone deaf, or maybe is like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. Most of you know I love decorating the house and yard. I’m a sucker for that stuff. Corny Christmas decorations is my thing. Come look at the Santa falling off my roof if you don’t believe me, he is scheduled to go up tomorrow (Friday November 30th). We don’t have to shun that stuff to do Advent. All of those preparations are good. Some are silly maybe, and overboard for sure sometimes. But if it gives you joy, make it part of Advent.
Advent is usually spoken of with words like “waiting” or “preparing for Christmas”. Those work well, but they also look back to a different time when Advent was much more like Lent. One of the old traditions was actually a 6-week Advent that was called “St. Martin’s Lent” because it went from the Feast of St. Martin of Tours on November 11th until Christmas. The color was purple and in many places still is. Our festivals remembering the great pieces of Jesus life always are a bit strange. We almost pretend we don’t know the end of the story, that we should somehow make sure we are sad on Good Friday so that we can pretend to be surprised at what happens on Sunday. (Spoiler alert: he doesn’t stay dead!) Likewise we cannot do Advent pretending we don’t know for sure what we will talk about on December 24th. So simply making these about “preparing for Christmas / Easter” keep them from being about how the Gospel is about our lives here and now in this moment.
Today, advent has become more than a “preparation for Christmas” and has a focus on hope. Hence the change in Lutheran churches (and others) to using blue as our color for the season. The themes for Hope in our readings are not just focused on the coming of the Christ Child. We begin this week with Jesus words that begin with frightening signs of distress, but then tell us “Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” Those words aren’t about some future hope. They are a hope that we can see already happening.
Each week in Advent we will use “As The Dark Awaits The Dawn” to open worship. Here are a few key lines from the hymn:
O Star of promise, scatter night,
loving bright, loving bright,
till shades of fear are gone.
As the blue expectant hour
before the silvering skies,
we long to see your day arise
Shine your future on this place,
enlighten every guest,
that through us stream your holiness
This season, we will not only look for hope in the coming of Christmas, but in our own reality. Where is darkness? Where do we desperately need light? Where is hopelessness?
Peace to you, and in the midst of the chaos of the secular “preparation for Christmas” that is indeed an important part of our life, may this December give you moments of peace to look for light and hope.