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It’s not too early to greet each other with this saying, “Happy New Year!” Our calendar marks the date of January 1 to begin a new page turning of our calendars. But actually, this season of Advent marks the beginning of the church year.

The life of the Christian Church began last Sunday.  We are in the first week of Advent. 

What is Advent?

Advent is a season of time, observed in many churches as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus. The term is a version of the Latin word, meaning “coming”.

Celebrating Advent is one of the most meaningful ways I’ve found to prepare myself for this season. Though I wasn’t not raised in a liturgical tradition, Advent has become the hallmark for me to prepare myself for not only Christmas but the new calendar year as well.  When I practice Advent, I get the opportunity to yet again, start my life over. I am invited to step out and away from my old ways and to begin new ways of living better–living in a different rhythm; living in a deeper–more sacred way.

Commercialism Often Shapes Our Understanding of Time

Culture and commercialism seem to shape our understanding of time more than a significant season such as Advent. Christmas decorations were up months ago. Parties are planned. Cards are sent and the festivities have begun.  We hurry on to the NEXT holiday, skimming the surface and lapping up any real meaning we can find in these crazy days. Yet, when we practice the celebration of Advent, we begin a way to resist culture. We have the opportunity to anticipate the coming of Christ—both the first time and also anticipate the coming of Christ in his return. If we don’t resist our culture, we will be absorbed by it.

Resist the Culture by Waiting

If we don’t resist our culture, we will be absorbed by it. Advent is the simple way to choose to live in a different way in the next month–the next season of your life.

Advent begins a four-week journey of waiting. We pause each day to take some time to wait. Here’s the clash with culture which is now so opposed to waiting on anything. In our 24/7 world, which is always “on” and always “available” Advent teaches us to resist the culture of consumerism and materialism by actively waiting.

Four weeks of waiting—and each week marked by a different candle which is lit reminding us to wait—not hurry through these days. Each candle as a significant meaning. I’ll be blogging more about the meaning each week.

Last Sunday, the candle of “Hope” was lit. How we all need hope. I live in a region of the country where a policeman was violently shot and killed just a few days ago, as were two other innocent civilians. Violence in Paris. Violence in the Mid-East. Terrorism. It’s too much it seems. Violence in our own hearts by such much busyness. Outer violence takes over the news and spotlight but inner violence is caused by such much hurry and scurry and no time more than right now. The monk, Thomas Merton wrote, “To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns (Which party? Which event? How can I get all I have to do ‘done?’; to surrender to too many demands (you already know what you have to get done by the end of the year); to commit oneself to too many projects (all the things you WANT to do but how will you get it ALL done?”; to want to help everyone in everything (we want to extend our love and care but how do we do this and to whom?) is to succumb to violence.” [Emphasis is mine].

The Bible is filled with stories of violence. Bad things happened to good people. Wars, natural disasters and disease are all recorded in the stories of the Scriptures. Yet, after each violent period of time—there was the message of Hope. All is not lost. All is not over. There is hope.

God is author of time and history and in God’s time table, there is no bad ending. This is why Advent is so important and powerful. When we light a candle, we light the candle in the HOPE that more light will come than we have right now. Though the candle may burn with a diminished wick, it’s still lit and through time and in time, the light will burn brighter.

Advent is choosing to resist the culture and to slow down not hurry. Advent is the time for community to do the same.

Some Suggestions to Engage Advent

  1. Get a candle and place it prominently in your den or living room. Light it each morning and sit in silence for 10 minutes BEFORE you start your day. Resist the culture of hurry by starting slow.
  2. Read this online article for more helpful background and suggestions: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markdroberts/series/introduction-to-advent/
  3. Get 4 candles and some greenery and make a simple Advent wreath. Practice the lighting of the candles each Sabbath and take an extended time of silence.
  4. Practice silence each day and use Solitude as an exercise to get away from the noise and busyness in the midst of your day. Take a walk alone. Sit outside on a bench. Sit in our office/cubicle alone with all your technology “off” or on airplane mode for two 10 minute breaks in the day.
  5. Start today. It’s not too late. Resist the culture and choose to wait!

 

 

Stephen W. Smith and his wife Gwen are the Co-Founders of a Christian ministry called, Potter’s Inn.  

Steve and Gwen have been married since 1980 and spent 32 years ministering together to the hearts of people around the world. Steve has pastored churches in Kentucky, North Carolina and the Netherlands. 

Currently, Steve and Gwen lead retreats throughout the world for leaders in the marketplace as well as ministry. A focus for Steve and Gwen is their work with individuals and couples in “Soul Care Intensives”–a private retreat with leaders.

Steve and Gwen have four adult sons and two daughters through their son’s marriages. Soon to be three!

 

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Lawrence Webb

commented on Dec 3, 2016

Raised a Baptist in the South, but no longer a SOUTHERN Baptist, I can identify with what you say about not growing up in the liturgical tradition but coming to love that framework. I teach/preach a lesson/sermon each week in a radio Sunday school class from our Baptist church. We had an associate pastor who introduced Advent almost twenty years ago. Over the years, we have added other aspects of the liturgical year. For my radio message, I always consult the lectionary but do not draw from it unfailingly. If you follow the lectionary, I think it necessarily makes you more aware of being part of the whole body of Christ around the world -- including denominations you may have been taught NOT to include as brothers and sisters in Christ. Without the lectionary, as at least a source to consider, it's easy to stay within a small circle of favorite texts or topical sermons. If I take the time to read over the passages for the following Sundays, even if I don't use one of them, I am exposed to passages I otherwise would not think about in my preparation. Thank you for this emphasis, and thank you, too, for pointing to the need for quiet reflection as a way to prepare more fully for Christmas. "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

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