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.
This year, November 27 is the First Sunday in Advent. That means that we begin a new church year, and enter again into the life of Jesus, from prophecy through the giving of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Here’s the challenge for you: to participate in the entire church year. Yes. I’m asking you to be in the Lord’s House every Lord’s Day and on festivals, too. And that should include corporate Bible study, particularly on Sunday morning. [If you’re reading this and you’re not a member of Faith, then take up the challenge in your own congregation.] To let the rhythm of the church year, and the weekly rhythm of Word and Sacrament, order your days and your months and your year. To refuse to let the world order your life. To refuse to be conformed to this world, with its priorities and schedules and what it considers important; and, instead, to be transformed in the renewing of your mind as the Holy Spirit brings you the Word of God each and every week.
As the days continue to get shorter and the hours of light fewer, the busyness picks up. Many people dread the holiday season, because it reminds them of loved ones who have died, family strife, the stresses of buying gifts and preparing meals. But something I love about Advent and Christmas services is that they slow us down. They make us take time out to meditate and think about what these seasons are really about. “Jesus is the reason for the season” may have become a trite, greeting-card platitude, but it tries to get at the importance of the “Christ” in “Christ-mass.” And Jesus is not only the reason for this season, He is the reason why there is anything at all, rather than nothing. Even the label “X-mas” cannot get away from Him. The letter “X” is really a Greek letter pronounced “kee.” It is the first letter of “Christ” in Greek [Cristovß].
We will have many opportunities for you to celebrate Jesus’ coming (and anticipate His coming again), as well as the Mass of Christ on December 24 and 25: