One of the things I look forward to the most in the Advent journey is taking some time each day to prepare for Christmas. Every year, I feel like December 25th sneaks up on me. Despite the fact that my wife likes to put up our Christmas tree in October (This year I was sweating pulling it out of the attic. Something not right about that.), I still seem to forget to think about Jesus’ birth until Christmas Eve. And before you know it, it’s over. 365 more days till Christmas…
So this year, I’ve been excited about reading and praying along with all of you, preparing our hearts to have a great Christmas celebration. If you’re with me, then you may be a bit surprised by today’s Daily Office readings. The I Thessalonians reading is something about the “Day of the Lord,” in Luke Jesus seems to be talking about the apocalypse, and Amos? Seriously, Amos? What is this all about?
Well, it’s actually kind of a cool way to begin, because it helps remind us what this season is all about. In fact, Advent is about looking in two very different directions:
Looking Back – Part of Advent is remembering the birth of Christ. Through some of the scriptures we read, we will mentally re-enact what it was like for the Jewish people who waited and desperately longed for the Messiah to come. That’s the purpose of the Amos passage. We look back and remember what it must have been like for this group of people who had been promised that God would bless the entire earth through their family, but who lived in a pretty desperate state of captivity and oppression – a far cry from the glory of the days of David and Solomon. They felt torn between what God had promised, and what their current situation looked like. Something didn’t add up, and they were desperate for something to change their fate.
Looking Forward – The other part of Advent is looking ahead to the day when “The day of the Lord” comes, and Jesus’ kingdom is made complete on the earth. In many ways, we stand in a tension just like the Israelites in Amos’ day. We know that the Kingdom of God is here, that Christ is King and has defeated sin and death once and for all. At the same time, however, we’re constantly bombarded by an earthly reality that looks nothing like God’s kingdom. Who’s really in charge here? When will the day come when God finally puts all of this back to rights? This is the purpose of the I Thessalonians and Luke readings, reminding us that the day is coming when all will be made right. We’re standing in the middle of the “Now and Not Yet,” and Advent helps us remember and feel that reality at a deeper level.
So get ready to enjoy the next four weeks! Not just the trees, carols, and shopping (if you enjoy shopping), but the daily reminder that this season is about so much more than what we see in ads and movies. Journey along with us, reading and praying together, and you’ll find that Advent is about looking back in remembrance, and looking forward in hopeful anticipation. And in the end, we will be longing for December 25th to come for more than just presents, food and family; but for the reminder that just as God came in a manger, He will one day come back and make all things new.
(If you haven’t downloaded the Advent Guide, click here to do so now.)