Advent and following the Rabbi
I recall being given the honor to deliver the sermon/homily at a large church (4 services) one Christmas. I spoke about Advent, explained it and was excited to celebrate and remember the birth of the Christ child [appointed baby]… appointed to what? “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” You know – most loved it and lined up for an hour after each service to share how I challenged them and blessed them. A few – LEFT THE CHURCH! Several let the senior pastor have it, for letting me “ruin Christmas”… you know Christmas – a month long social hyperactivity high, eating sweets, having parties and being happy because it’s the season to be “happy”… presents, dinners, time off, family together, blah, blah, blah…and of course, don’t forget Santa …. St Nicholas co-opted almost two centuries ago to make a buck. I dared remind everyone that the sweet music and baby we adore came for one reason… the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He was born… to die. To die for us – to save us – to redeem us – to show us God with skin on – to move into the neighborhood and demonstrate the Upside Down Kingdom… we forget that part. We forget that the night He was born, the Father was thinking about the day He would be humiliated and die, having never offered a defense to the lost souls who “protected their slice of the pie”.
Advent – celebrated for century upon century… reduced to Hall Mark and Macy’s marketing today, blended in with Hanukkah (cool holiday to join with our Jewish cousins if you’ve never done so), Ramadan, Kwanza and the winter solstice. I am not advocating that others can not and should not celebrate their holidays. What saddens me is that we’ve allowed our King to be co-opted as just another god on the shelf to be used to make a buck, or two, or $20B….
Few Christians even understand what Advent is – or is about. It is anticipation, simply stated. BUT… anticipating what? The birth of the Christ? Well, it definitely remembers, acknowledges, celebrated and appreciates His birth as a humble, humble human baby. But Advent actually anticipates His return during the remembrance of his earthly coming (the 1st time)… God came the 1st time to pay for our sins…. He comes again for justice. Advent starts with eschatological passages about His return… when we, tired, exhausted, aching at injustice (if we have His heart – Is 58 & 61, Matt 25.31ff, etc) and we see Him in the twinkling of an eye.
Well, that just poured pooh on my Christmas Goose… I just peed on the presents and knocked over the tree. You do know that is a pagan celebration tradition, right? Look, I don’t care if you have redeemed the worship item of pagan Germanic peoples of old? If ever you spend time in Germany or Austria though – look at the crown of any building under construction – from home to sky scraper… yep, an evergreen tree… some pagan habits are hard to break. But, I digress…
I’ve ruined Christmas and our idea of Advent. I should have not said anything, should have left all in their Costco induced fervor and trance. Best Buy is waiting… Well, tough. You actually need to know it. BUT, there will be some for whom I just bust a huge bubble and let them land hard in a pile of reality.
I don’t want to make people mad. But, like when I talk about money, and people who would have to part with it if they got serious about following the Christ get angry, there will be people mad when they read that Advent is about celebrating that our sacrifice was born! Yea! How morbid! I will celebrate Christmas – big time. Not with presents. Actually we give few and have intentionally rejected the cultural rule that we participate in needless consumerism. We do write notes, bake food, take time to recognize and spend time with people…and celebrate that God loved us so much that He gave us His son…. who came as a baby, and died on a cross for us. We celebrate His propitiation big time and make it a point to love – in action – even more than we dare do on a daily basis…. even if it costs us.
So, as we complete Advent and celebrate the 12 days of Christmas (We do that here in New Orléans), we wish you a very peaceful, safe, blessed and joyful Christmas.
Love – really love,