Bishop and Christian*, December 2016

Something you may or may not (want to) know: Advent is my favorite season of the church year. As a personal preference, I appreciate the more meditative season, the expectant hymns, the longing, and the hope in the midst of darkness. It seems much more true to life in this creation, while the full-throated joy of Christmas points to life in the new creation, which we have now only by faith.

Advent is a mixture of longing and hope; the futility of this creation combined with the fertility of Life itself taking flesh in the Virgin’s womb. It is declaring to us the One who has come in flesh to suffer, die, and rise again; the One who comes to us—still God and Man in one person—every time His Word and Sacraments are heard, believed, and celebrated; and the One who will be revealed at the moment when this old, dying creation is renewed eternally and restored through Jesus’ own resurrection.

It is also a reversal of the way the world experiences each year’s calendar. As the world’s year winds to its close, with all its disappointments, regrets, and hope for something—anything—new, the Church’s year begins right in the midst of that ending. It is light in the midst of the world’s darkness, the promise of Christ shining brightly as the night lengthens. How old and tired this world sometimes appears, as another year grows old and tired.

We all try to capture some sense of hope as we look to a new year, but it often can appear as if we’re just revolving in a tired cycle of endless time. Advent reminds us that we are not caught up in an infinite circle, but that the Son’s entrance into time and history brings the restoration of all things near. The old has gone; the new has come.

So our prayer begins again in earnest: “Come, Thou long-expected Jesus, born to set Thy people free; from our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in Thee” (LSB 338). “And the promise is heard and repeated: The night will soon be ending; the dawn cannot be far” (LSB 337). “From the manger newborn light shines in glory through the night. Darkness there no more resides; in this light faith now abides” (LSB 332).

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

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