It’s almost Christmas. I know, that’s hard to miss. Far easier to miss is Advent, which starts this Sunday.
What’s Advent? “Advent” in Latin means coming or arrival. According to the traditional church calendar, it refers to the four-week period leading up to Christmas Day during which Christians remember the coming of Christ — both his first coming (birth) and his promised second coming when all things will be made new.
Advent is about waiting. Just as Israel awaited the Messiah’s arrival, we now eagerly await his return. (This why Advent isn’t a single holiday; by design, it’s a season that stretches across a few week’s time.) But waiting is hard, and sometimes excruciating, isn’t it? Advent makes room for us to admit that this is so. By yearning for the light of Christ, we acknowledge that darkness yet abounds. In the words of author and theologian Fleming Rutledge, “The authentically hopeful Christmas spirit has not looked away from the darkness, but straight into it. … Advent begins in the dark.”
What have you been waiting for most?
In stark contrast to commercialized “Christmas” cheer, the Advent season invites us to name our unfulfilled longings, lament ways we’re bruised by the fall, and pay attention to the pain of waiting for Christ’s promise to be fulfilled at last. Will you dare to do that over the next few weeks?
And yet, wait though we must, not all is waiting. Christ did come. (Christmas!) Christ is coming again. Advent is waiting, yes. Advent is also hope.
Sometimes this is harder: Beloved, will you dare to hope?
“Alright, I'm in,” you say. “I want to spend this Advent meaningfully, grow in Advent hope (and waiting), learning about the grace of Christ's incarnation.” Great. Here are some ways we can engage the Advent season together this year:
ADVENT AT GRACE MERIDIAN HILL
Worship & Community
• “Waiting on the World to Change” | Sunday 12/2, 9, 16, 23 : Pastors from the GraceDC network, including Duke, will preach a special Advent sermon series on the aches and longings of our hearts -- joy, intimacy, permanence, beauty -- which Christ was born to heal and will fill perfectly when he returns. Each Sunday, we will also light the Advent Candles, a symbol of Christ’s light overcoming the darkness.
• Children | Sunday 12/16 : The younger kids of our church will share a special song and reciting a Bible verse during our service!
• Advent Tree | Sunday 12/2, 9, 16, 23 : Participate in this creative, community-wide project by writing down words of hope, longing, thanks, or lament and hanging them on a “tree” displayed in the church lobby.
Personal Reflection & Prayer
• Advent Prayers | Sign up to receive daily prayers written by renowned pastor/author Scotty Smith via email from December 2-25. A simple way to pray over and ponder the meaning of Advent and the gift of Christ’s birth each morning of Advent.
• Reading and Reflection | If you’re looking for a great book to read during the Advent season, one of my favorites is Come Thou Long Expected Jesus, a collection of essays on Advent and Christmas themes, edited by Nancy Guthrie. I highly recommend it!
• Praying for Advent Sorrows | Thursday, 12/6, 7:00pm : A special Engine Room night of prayer. The holiday season is sometimes the hardest time of year, as many are faced with depression, financial pressures, broken family relationships, and more. Let's bring these needs before God in prayer together.
Outreach & Neighborhood
• Loving Our Neighbors. A great way to spend the Advent season is by giving a taste of Advent hope to others. Opportunities are in the works. Please stay tuned!