We are quickly approaching my favorite season of the year: Advent. Advent is derived from a Latin word meaning “coming,” and takes place the Sunday after Thanksgiving and concludes on Christmas Eve (though some traditions extend it another Sunday or two). It is a time when we remember Jesus’ first coming with thanksgiving and joy, while we anticipate, long for, and prepare our hearts for His 2nd coming. What we’ve done at Harbor is structure our worship services to highlight the anticipatory and longing aspects toward the beginning of Advent, and then move toward the celebration/thanksgiving aspect towards the end.
How does Harbor “celebrate” Advent?
During our Sunday worship services, we will include a variety of visuals such as increased greenery each Sunday as we get closer to Christmas Eve, some artwork, and the lighting of candles (and possibly folks dressed up as bible characters to read scripture if our worship arts team can swing it!). The lighting of candles has been a standard part of Advent celebration for hundreds of years, as it symbolically points us to Jesus, the true light of the world.
Between the Sundays, we are providing personal and family devotional material. For individuals, spouses together, or Moms/Dads with older youth, we have freely provided an Advent Devotional guide from The Good Book Company written by Tim Chester called The One True Story. This devotional is a helpful tool to track the story-line of the bible and how it all points to Jesus, the Hero, and Light of the World. I’m encouraging everyone to take one per family and to work your way through it this advent season. It won’t take but 5-10 minutes each day, and I know you’ll be glad you did. I honestly can’t wait! Please pick one up this Sunday at worship if you haven’t already.
Kristy our family director has also put together a little guide for families to go through with their children. It is something you can do once a week with your younger kiddos or youth age kids. It does’t take long! These are available at welcome table as well. And if you want something more than once a week, Kristy has also compiled a list of resources in this guide.
Why celebrate Advent as a church or in your home?
Advent Emphasizes Jesus in a season of distractions. Christmas time can so easily become about anything other than Jesus. Even good things. For kids, it is all about Santa. When they get older it is all about presents. Or for us it becomes all about family, Christmas parties, or seeing kids open presents. Or it can become all about giving and doing good deeds. These are all great things, and even commands! But if Jesus is not pre-eminent in our hearts, they can become quickly become Jesus substitutes, as opposed to gifts for which to be thankful and commands to be followed.
Advent brings hope to those crying and crying to those hoping in the wrong things.
We still long for what Jesus has yet to do. At least we should. We cannot become complacent. When we have much, we need to remember the hardship/burdens/suffering/persecution of others. We cry with them. Christmas time can be hard. Really hard. One of my professors in seminary, Steve Brown, said he never liked Christmas because he had an alcoholic father. For many who have lost loved ones, this time isn’t the same joy-filled holiday as it may be for you. Advent is a time longing, anticipating and hoping in Jesus return. It is a time where we can tell our Lord, “We want you back.” You know that is the cry of the Middle Eastern Christians, particularly those displaced by Isis. They live in tents waiting for their homeland to be restored. May we cry with them from afar.
Yet we cry out with hope. Jesus has indeed come. But it took him a really long time! How long were people in Egypt crying out for redemption? Over 400 years. How long did it take for Jesus to come after God’s people were exiled to Babylon? Nearly 600 years. But He did come once, started His Kingdom on Earth (God’s will being done on Earth as it is in heaven), and He will come back. We join Him in His work, and find comfort in how much He’s already done in us, His church, and His world. We have cause to pause and hope. Not in our politics, our families, our work, our homes, our business, our retirements, but in Jesus our true King.
May this season be one where you draw near to Jesus and find that He was the one drawing you near all along.
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.“- John 1:5