"Imagine a complex, multi-cultural society that annually holds an elaborate winter festival, one that lasts not simply a few days, but several weeks. This great festival celebrates the birth of the Lord and Saviour of the world, the prince of peace, a man who is divine. People mark the festival with great abundance- feasting, drinking and gift giving....." (Richard Horsley- The Liberation of Christmas)
The passage goes on, recounting the decorations that are hung, and the songs and dances that accompany the festival, how the economy booms and philanthropic acts abound....
But this is not Christmas- this is a Roman festival in celebration of the Emperor....This is the world that Jesus was born into! The world where the early Christians would ask "Who is your Saviour the Emperor or Christ?"
And yet our shops and stores and often our lives are caught up in a world that looks very much like the one of ancient Rome, where we worship at the shrine of consumerism....
Advent on the other hand calls us into the darkness, a time of quiet preparation, a time of waiting, and re-discovering the wonder of the knowledge that God is with us. Advent's call is to simplicity and not abundance, a time when we wait for glorious light of God to come again...
Christ is with us at this time of advent, in the darkness, and Christ is coming with his light- not the light of the shopping centre, but the light of love and truth and beauty.
What do you long for this advent? What are your hopes and dreams for the future? What is your prayer today?
In the vein of simplicity I ask you to list five advent longings....
I long for:
Peace. Peace on earth. Peace in our homes. Peace in our hearts. A peace that tells us that our longing is not in vain, that this world is not our final home, that we are not along.
Time. This time of year is one of the busiest in the church. Christmas parties, children's plays, and musical programs crowd our schedules. I'm longing for time to relax, to take it all it, to enjoy it all without feeling pushed, and time to spend with my family.
Home. Ben preached last week about Christ bringing home to us, and I think I'm preaching something similar next week (no good idea goes uncopied, I guess). He aslo pointed out that UM preachers are never really home...we come to a church for a time, and then we leave and go somewhere else. I'm longing for a sense of home this Advent.
Mercy. So much is so hard for so many people. It is a time for us to be merciful with one another, to be kind, to be gentle, and to speak the truths we must in love and with mercy.
Love. Like mercy, it seems to be in all-too-short supply sometimes. We hear the occasional wonderful story of selfless love, but they are overshadowed by stories of "Black Friday" frenzies, the next great sale, the job losses, and the latest economic indicators. That leaves it to us to tell the "love" stories.