Summary: This sermon was preached on Advent 1C, and highlights the hope we have in the promise of Christ’s Second Coming. The sermon concluded with a service of prayer and anointing.
Happy New Year!
Yes…Happy New Year!
Today marks the beginning of the New Year in the Christian Calendar. No, this is not the calendar year, neither is it the beginning of the church statistical and budget year—but the beginning of the Christian Worship Year. Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and the first Sunday of the new Christian Calendar—so…Happy New Year!
Our church can neither be considered a “High Church” nor a “Low Church.” It is not a strictly Liturgical Church nor is it a free worship atmosphere with no structure. We are neither traditional nor contemporary; we are not excessively formal, neither could we truly be considered informal. Our worship services are truly blended—taking the best of the liturgical traditions, blending fresh music with classic hymns. We are a “come as you are” church, recognizing that some might wear a suit and tie, while others might be dressed much more casually.
If you didn’t grow up in a liturgical tradition, you might not quite be sure about all of the hubbub surrounding “Happy New Year” on December 3rd. You might think that Advent is a word used to describe a calendar with paper-fold-out windows, and you’re probably wondering why we didn’t sing any Christmas Carols this morning.
To put it simply, Advent is the first season of the Christian Calendar. It consists of the four weeks preceding Christmas, and focuses on themes of waiting and anticipation. If we were strictly following the Christian calendar, we would celebrate Christmas for twelve days, concluding with the arrival of the Wise Men on the celebration of Epiphany—January 6.
But the season of Advent is not simply about waiting for the celebration of Christmas. It is not simply about counting the days until we can sing Silent Night or light the Christ Candle. Advent is not just about coloring the church in blue, in anticipation of changing the colors to white. Traditionally, during advent we look at the themes of hope, peace, joy, and love—each on their respective Sundays. We hear the Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament once again, knowing that they were fulfilled in the birth of a Baby in a manger in Bethlehem.
However, there is yet another theme of Advent which we often explore—particularly on the first Sunday of Advent, and that is the theme of Christ’s second coming. You may wonder—why do we talk about Christ’s second coming as part of our Advent celebration? What does that have to do with preparation for Christmas?
Well, first, it’s important to understand the meaning of the word Advent, which is based on the Latin word adventus, meaning “coming towards” or simply “coming.” When we speak of the Advent season, we are speaking of the season of coming. What is coming? Well, certainly, Christmas is coming. But more than that, we know that Christ is coming to earth again, when he returns to finally bring about His Kingdom. This season of waiting and anticipation also reminds us that the “Ancients” spoken of in Hebrews 11 spent their lives waiting for the Advent or the “Coming” of the Messiah.
As a child, my only understanding of Advent had to do with the little Advent calendars, with windows to open each day. Every morning I would get to open another window in the calendar, as I marked time toward the day when I could open the presents under the tree. But Advent is more than just marking time until December 25th. Advent is an opportunity for us to understand the waiting of the ancients—and it is also a time for us to boldly proclaim the message of hope.
We think that we’ve waited a long time for Christ to return. Generation after generation has been convinced that the Second Advent will occur during their lifetime. We look back at the books that were written to predict a date of His return, and we realize that many people have “gotten it wrong.” And so we are tempted to wonder if we have also “gotten it wrong.” But we forget that it was much more than 2000 years between the time of Adam and the time of Jesus. Our impatience for Christ to return is minimal compared with the amount of time the “Ancients” were asked to wait for His first Advent. Any doubt that we might experience in regards to Christ’s return should be removed by the reminder that the ancients in Hebrews 11 waited much longer, did not see the promise during their lifetime, but their faith was still credited to them as righteousness.
The message of Advent is important in our culture of instant gratification. We are so unable to wait for anything anymore—retailers offer us attractive financing plans so we can delay payments and interest an entire year—while still enjoying the product. Halloween is over, and Christmas decorations begin to go on sale. This past week at work, we decorated the General Store and began playing one of the non-stop Christmas music radio stations. Microwaves and frozen dinners allow us to eat when we are hungry, and weight-loss plans entice us with the promise of instant success. We have a low tolerance for trials and tribulation, and often look for the easiest path to health and wealth.