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This week is the beginning of Advent. While some of us grew up in the church and some of us did not, most of us probably don’t have a great grasp on the what, why, and how of Advent. So in short-form here’s a rundown of the particulars.
Advent means coming or arrival. As we near Christmas Day, the day that we set aside to rejoice at the birth of Christ our Savior and King, we take a whole month as the church to celebrate that arrival instead of just one day.
Advent is a time of anticipation and expectation. We remember the anticipation of the long expected Savior, Jesus, to come to his people. But we, in 2014, have a unique perspective because we know that he has come and we have received the benefits of his coming. That through his life, his death, and his resurrection we are set free from sin and death and made alive now and forever.
But even now we should have anticipation. Not just for what has happened, but for what will happen. Christ our Savior has come, but he will come again to rule and reign forever and ever. We do not know the day or hour, but we know that his return is imminent.
With that knowledge we should have a longing and expectation for the return of the King—for the Second Advent of Jesus.
We take time to celebrate the arrival of Jesus, the one that happened in the past and the one that will happen in the future, because it is easy to forget.
As we look back and look forward, now is not a time of distraction, though it is easy to be distracted. Christmas has become culturally consumeristic in nature. In some regard it might still be better to give than to receive, but on the whole our culture has lost the view that Advent and Christmas are a time of joyous receiving. Not of presents wrapped in paper, gift cards stuffed in stockings, or money slid into envelopes.
No. It is a time of joyous receiving because while we were strangers with no hope the God of hope came to us to rescue us and save us as one of us. That is the most unfathomable gift imaginable.
Celebrating Advent helps us to refocus our hearts, minds, lives, and resources onto that which (or who) is most worthy of all honor, praise, and worship. The one who is most worthy of our lives—the Messiah, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
At Sojourn, we are seeking to uphold the traditions of the church, but not for the sake of tradition. Traditions are good if they serve the purpose of pointing us beyond the things of the tradition itself and onto that which they were created to remind us of in the first place.
We have an Advent Wreath. This is a wreath with five candles. A candle is lit each Sunday as we gather, beginning this past Sunday, with the fifth candle being lit on Christmas Eve. There are different traditions as to what each candle symbolizes, but for us the candles show the progressive in-breaking of light into the darkness, with the final light representing Christ, the light of the world. As the dawning of a new day comes we celebrate the joy, hope, faith, and salvation that we received in and through Christ alone. It is one of the reasons that we have named our Advent sermon series Light in the Darkness.
We will also have a reading from Luke 1-2 each Sunday. Sojourners will come forward to read God’s Word over his people. The sermons will be based on the text that is read each week and the songs we sing will aid in pointing our hearts and minds to our great God and King.
As we worship together through sitting under the preached Word and singing songs of praise, our hope is that God will use this Advent season to draw us closer to him that we might live lives of faithfulness for his glory and the good of others.
While this is tradition for many, don’t allow the tradition to overshadow the purpose. Pray, very simply and honestly, that God would use this Advent season, in 2014, to change your life. And invite friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to join you, praying that God would use it change their lives too.
I’m very much looking forward to celebrating Advent with you, Sojourn. See you Sunday.
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