Last year was my first Advent on this blog, and I wrote about the four weekly themes of Advent (well, three of them anyway – I got too busy one week). This year, since I already wrote about hope very recently in my ABCs of Hospital Chaplaincy series, I decided to do something different. Our church is one of many this year participating in Advent Conspiracy, a countercultural movement to focus on the real meaning of this season and not get so caught up in all the “stuff” that goes along with the holidays. I don’t mean writing out Christmas instead of Xmas (which doesn’t bother me since the Greek letter X was an early abbreviation for Christ), or wishing people Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays (which also doesn’t bother me since people of other faiths have holidays at this time of year and I want them to be just as happy). It’s about much more than what we write or what we say.
The Advent Conspiracy website outlines the four tenets for the season. This week, we start with Worship Fully. “It starts with Jesus. It ends with Jesus. This is the holistic approach God had in mind for Christmas. It’s a season where we are called to put down our burdens and lift a song up to our God. It’s a season where love wins, peace reigns, and a king is celebrated with each breath. It’s the party of the year. Entering the story of advent means entering this season with an overwhelming passion to worship Jesus to the fullest.” That’s a hard word to hear in our culture. Love wins and peace reigns? Really?! Have you taken a look at the news lately?? Love and peace are depressingly hard to find there. But that is the promise of Advent, that Christ is coming — Christ is always coming — to bring the love and peace that are so desperately needed. The world is broken. And all the Black Friday bargains we can find can’t fix it, not by a long shot. So we pray for the coming of the One who can and will.
In the meantime, we try to find ways to participate in the work of Christ, the job of “transforming the world into the kingdom of God” as our church’s mission statement puts it. What do our beliefs teach us about the kingdom of God, and does the world we see when we step outside our doors or turn on the news look anything like that? If not, how can we change things? I see God’s people doing that work in big and small ways every day – loving the unlovable, learning from those who are “other,” advocating for justice, putting someone else’s needs before their own, hurting with those who hurt. All of these are important, even sacred, tasks. They are the inbreaking of God’s kingdom into the world. But with all that work, all that doing, it would be easy to forget the being.
Worship is where we remember who we are. It may seem like a holy waste of time, like doing nothing. But it is a time to realign our priorities, to say that we will not worship at the altars of consumerism, greed, gluttony, or competition that are so popular in the world around us. It’s a time to remember that God is God and we are not, to look at the life and message of Christ who was Emmanuel – God with us, the Word made flesh. It’s a time to recognize that we are all connected, that Christ came to redeem the world, even the people we don’t like or understand, who don’t like or understand us. We worship because we can’t be who we were created to be and do the work we were put here to do until we make the time and space in our lives to remember who God is and make that our focus. This is the perfect time of year to do it. Let’s take a break from the shopping and decorating and baking to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ.