Posts Tagged Advent
“Advent” is the time of the church calendar when we look for the coming of the Lord Jesus. It has elements of past, present, and future longing for the coming of the Messiah. We read the Messianic passages from the prophets that long for a suffering servant to come, a child who will bring light from darkness. Then we celebrate that Jesus did come as a baby in the time of Caesar Augustus.
In the present, we look for the Messiah to come now in the present into the hearts and lives of broken people, structures, and communities. We cry to the Lord for his Spirit to fill us and to be present in all our thoughts and give us purpose and vision. Then we celebrate that his promise is fulfilled over and over to be the living and ever-present Emmanuel, God with us.
For the future, we look to the coming of the Lord in the full consummation of the story of redemption. All the saints from the past, present, and future, along with the whole universe of creation groans with anticipation that the Lord Jesus will be forever present as the King of Kings in the glorious New City of God. We celebration in Advent that he has always been faithful to his promises and he will not fail to come again.
I wrote this song for Advent that doesn’t have any stable, shepherds, angels, star, or even mention sweet little baby Jesus. However, it does get to the heart of the longing for the Lord Jesus to come again and be our King in the past, present and future.
Come Again Lord Jesus
Come again Lord Jesus
All creation join and sing
Come again Lord Jesus
Come again and be our King
Come again and be our King
To the poor and the forsaken
brokenhearted and alone
Come again and bring us hope
The one true Son of David
Worthy Lamb upon the throne
Come again and bring us peace
As you came before, Jesus come again
Oh, we need you Lord, please come again
To the victim and the prisoner
with no power and no name
Come again and bring us joy
Be the one true Righteous Shepherd
Calling lost sheep to reclaim
Come again and bring us love
I had the strange and embarrassing experience a few months ago of becoming emotionally overwhelmed in the midst of reading a bedtime story to my daughter. Most evenings, one of us reads aloud to our kids as they settle down for bed and on this particular evening, without any warning, I lost my composure, forced my way through to the end of the chapter, then quickly ran into the bathroom and then I began, what can only be described as sobbing. I’m pretty sure that my six year old daughter, snuggled up against my side, methodically brushing her freshly washed hair, was oblivious to my pregnant pauses, tightened jaw and voice cracking. “Dad,” she said impatiently, “keep reading.”
We had a hard year of loss and disappointment and on this particular evening, I had some specific situations on my mind. Our friend, Nate, was in the ICU with a grim prognosis. Just the previous weekend, he had been on the schedule at church to play the trumpet and now, desperate prayers were offered in our church community, interceding for a miraculous recovery. I was also thinking of a child in Fort Wayne, IN, who is my first-cousin-once-removed. Silas Ward was the second adopted child of my cousin, Sam and his wife Sara. When they brought him home he was a normal baby, but after the first year, they noticed a delay in some of his development. Problems eating and weak muscles pointed to a mysterious problem that had doctors baffled. Eventually, they determined that Silas was born with an extremely rare neurological disorder called “Leigh’s Disease” which was slowly destroying his brain cells. This fall, my cousin said goodbye to Silas who only lived to be 2 years old.
The night I wept, our bedtime reading was from “Prince Caspian” from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. The stories are an allegory for the Kingdom and the gospel of Jesus, who is portrayed symbolically by an enormous and powerful lion named, Aslan. In “Prince Caspian”, the wondrous and magical creatures of Narnia had long been forgotten and been replaced by drab, empirical and secular humans known as the Telmarians. The chapter I was reading that night was the story of the incarnation of Aslan back into Narnia. The giant lion, with an almost kitten-like joy, bounds through the streets of a small village leading a teaming crowd of magic creatures as the dumbfounded Telmarians stand in amazement. Much like the life of Jesus we find in the gospels, this savior goes through the town healing, delivering, and redeeming. My favorite example is when Aslan finds a boy being beaten by a man with a stick. Aslan turns the stick into a bundle of flowers, then he turns the man into a tree rooted into place as the boy begins laughing and dancing. The chapter ends with the discovery of an elderly woman who is about to die when Aslan speaks and the disease leaves her. She sits up, healed and filled with joy and wonder at seeing Aslan.
As I’m reading this, I feel the presence of Christ in the room with us. As amazing as Aslan is, he is only a copycat of the actual glory of the incarnation of Jesus. I saw in the story, the deep brokenness of my own heart in such tragedy and loss juxtaposed with the unmeasured joy that comes in the wake of the eternal life and healing of Jesus. In wonder and adoration like Mary Magdalene after the resurrection of her brother Lazarus, I wept at the feet of Jesus. There with my daughter in the dim light of her bedroom, my eyes and my heart were opened to come and behold Him, born the king of Angels.
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Now that we’re on the other side of “Black Friday”, we will be overexposed to enough Christmas music to choke a reindeer. After a trip to the mall yesterday, I’ve heard enough renditions of “Sleigh ride” and “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by auto-tuned pop tarts to make me lose my appetite for egg nog. Much like egg nog, Christmas can be tasty at first, and then if you over-indulge, it can make you a little nauseous. How does one retain one’s sanity whilst being subjected to this Kubrickian regiment of marketing yule? Here’s a few pointers that might help you stomach the next 27 days.
You might have to listen to Brittney Spears sing “Santa Baby” when you are out, but you don’t have to subject yourself to that kind of experience at home. Give yourself the gift of good music that retains a semblance of the sacred. A few years ago, a friend gave us tickets to see Handel’s “Messiah” and it was a wonderfully refreshing evening of worship. I give my wife a new Christmas recording every year for her birthday at the end of November so that we will be able to control at least some of the music that we have to listen to. I like to give our collection a wide variety of styles and moods. But what if you are feeling ready to get a little risky?
One way to beat the holiday blues is to do what comes naturally to folks from my generation: fight kitsch-fire with kitsch-fire. I like to get out the super sappy music and give myself a good dosing somewhere at the beginning of the season. Some folks will have the “Christmas Sweater” parties or something like that to play up the absurdity of Xmas. These ventures into PoMo can sometimes become overly cynical and self-destructive so after you let your inner hipster out for a few days, it’s best to bring it back to the gospels.
Go to the cross
Of course this is “the true meaning of Christmas”, right? A divine act of intervention on our behalf in order to redeem the lost. Advent is the thrill of hope in a weary world. Advent is all creation bursting into a glorious song for the triumphant Redeemer entering into the darkness. The manger is not sentimental kitsch. It is the first place of suffering and sacrifice that Jesus experience which placed him on a trajectory toward the cross of Calvary. Take time to listen to the hymns, listen to spirituals, even listen in the malls as the saccharine sentimental music is unintentionally prophesying that the kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.