Monday, December 1, 2014

The "Opportunity" of Advent

Yesterday marked the first day of Advent, the countdown to Christmas. 

Around the world, God's people gather round the kingly purple and pink candles to strike the first into flame, lighting the darkness with a single light of hope

Our family reads Scripture, discusses the story of Messiah as told from the pages of the Old through the pages of the New Testament.  We try to prepare our hearts for Who is to come in 25 short days.

In Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas, the editors compiled such authors as Bonhoeffer, Luther, Donne, Kierkegaard, Aquinas, and Yancey as a day-by-day journey through Advent to help Christians think beyond the manger to the cross.  It is a challenge to, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, think more deeply about the meaning of Christmas to understand that the Word made flesh is first and foremost, "frightening news for everyone who has a conscience" (p. xv).

As the book's Introduction says,

"We miss the essence of Christmas unless we become, in the words of Eberhard Arnold, 'mindful of how Christ's birth took place.'...Advent is not merely a commemorative event or an anniversary, but a yearly opportunity for us to consider the future, second Advent--the promised coming of God's kingdom on earth" (p. xv).

In the excerpt from Luther, he draws us to see ourselves in the Christmas story:

"Therefore see to it that you do not treat the Gospel only as history, for that is only transient; neither regard it only as an example, for it is of no value without faith. Rather, see to it that you make this birth your own and that Christ be born in you" (p. 219).

It is the you that Luther focuses on, quoting Luke 2:10 when the angel said to the shepherds, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which shall be to all the people; for there is born to you this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" and Isaiah 9:6 when the prophet said, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given."

We are that you, that us in the Christmas story. And with that inclusion of humanity in the story of Christ's birth comes a responsibility to not merely hear the Christmas story but to become the Christmas story.  As Luther says, "This is the principal thing and the principal treasure in every Gospel. Christ must above all things become our own and we become his" (p. 219).

It is with that knowledge that we are called to be like the Shepherds--to hear and share the good news, the gospel of Jesus' birth, death, and call to be like Him in a faith walk with God that demonstrates itself in a lifetime of selfless acts of love to one's neighbor.

Bonhoeffer likewise echoes this call to consider the season of Advent not as merely Jesus coming to a manger bed but of a holy God coming in our midst and seeking to take up residence in our hearts and lives: "When we hear Jesus knocking, our conscience first of all pricks us: Are we rightly prepared? Is our heart capable of becoming God's dwelling place? Thus Advent becomes a time of self-examination" (p. 201-202)..

Jesus knocks on our heart's door during this Advent season.  It is not a mere season or holiday.  It is an opportunity for us to examine our lives in light of the gospel of Jesus.

If you're looking for something a little out of the ordinary when preparing your heart for Advent, consider ordering from Amazon a copy of Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and ChristmasIt will send you beyond the manger and even beyond the cross to the heart of Christmas that should live within us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment