Advent Memorial Son

It’s Advent again and you may noticed, especially in our first two Sundays of Advent that we are not singing Christmas Carols.  Instead we are singing some of the great Advent Hymns like O Come O Come Emmanuel. You will also notice that each Sunday during Advent we are having different families come up and light the Advent candle and explain what the candle symbolizes.  Beth Pearson gave a wonderful children’s sermon on the first Sunday of Advent and taught our children the importance of waiting.  My prayer for all of us is that we don’t miss what God wants to teach us this month and that we don’t lose out on the true gift of the season.

When Advent is swamped and washed away by the premature celebration of Christmas, we lose something more: we lose the gifts of expectation and anticipation. It is not just a problem for children.  Modern western society is a culture of instant gratification. We are unwilling to wait for anything and in refusing to wait we also lose much of the value of the thing desired. If we can have anything we want, whenever we want it, everything is cheapened and nothing is of much value. On the other hand, waiting patiently gives us an opportunity to reflect on the meaning and value of the things we desire. Indeed, it enhances the value of those things, for nothing is more valuable than the thing that is out of reach, and few possessions are more prized than the ones for which we have longed and waited. Furthermore, the truth is that, in spite of our desire for instant gratification, and in spite of the fact that, even during a prolonged economic downturn, most Americans still, by comparison, experience abundance of every sort, we cannot always have what we want or, more importantly, what we need.  And so, what we need more than anything else is hope.

In C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, it was always winter but never Christmas before the return of Aslan. It was, in certain ways, a very unhappy time, but it was also a time in which the citizens of Narnia found that they could survive, if only they could hold on to their faith, with the hope that Aslan would return someday. That is the secret of Advent.  Advent looks back to the first Advent, the incarnation of the Christ child.  But it also looks forward to the second Advent, the return of Christ to judge all the accumulated evil of the centuries, totally and completely.  This is the substance of our Advent hope.  Hope nurtures faith in a way that instant gratification never can. Had it been the other way around, always Christmas, a time of unending gift-giving and continual parties, faith, as well as hope, would have been in jeopardy. For when a time of darkness or danger returned, no one would have been prepared to deal with it, no one would have had the inner resources to face it. As the Apostle Paul writes: “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) Advent is the Church’s time of learning to live through the darkness, learning to grow in the hope that sustains faith. Rediscovering Advent becomes a matter of the greatest importance for ourselves, for our children and grandchildren, for our neighbors and friends.  Heb. 13:14 is our Advent verse: “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.”