Between the mall and the mail, and everything in between, the season of Christmas has descended upon us — and it’s not yet December! For our commercialized landscape, yearning to sell and to draw on the urges the season invites, the holiday is in full swing.
And yet, for Christians, the season holds the possibility of being less shiny and more sober, less pretty and more prepared. For it is the season of Advent that we practice in these December weeks. Advent asks that we look squarely into the darknesses all around us and long for the One who will transform all of creation (including you and me!) with hope, peace, joy, and love beyond all measure. It invites us to wait and to ready ourselves for the coming of Love made flesh. Subtly and quietly, Advent orients us to the most profound truth: in Christ, God is with us always.
As much as I love the trappings of this joyful Christmas season, I need Advent. I need the steady, unyielding invitation to wait, to long for the redemption that draws near. I need to humble myself before the manger. I need to face the darkness — grief, anger, indifference, neglect, anxiety, suffering, injustice — that surrounds me and occasionally invades me, holding fast to the Christ-light which penetrates even the darkest of places. I need the annual reminder that in Christ, I am lost but found; in Christ, I am imperfect but beloved; in Christ, I am unfinished but enough. In Christ, God is with me always.
This Sunday, we mark the beginning of the waiting season, where four weeks of Advent will ready us to receive the Christ Child. We’ll ‘hang the greens’ in worship, preparing our church house with signs and symbols of this season. Our children, along with their prayer partners and parents, will travel from station to station at their Advent Workshop, as they learn about Love made flesh in the form of a baby. Many in our community will gather Sunday afternoon to hear the good news as sung and proclaimed throughout the centuries in Handel’s Messiah: “Hallelujah! The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever!”
And perhaps it’s fitting that this Sunday, we celebrate John Thornton’s ministry among us and bless him as he departs for his next field of service to the kingdom of God. It’s not an accident that his previous place of ministry bestowed upon him the fitting title “John the Baptist.” Like that great hero of the faith, in some ways John (the Baptist) Thornton has been like a prophet among us, persistently drawing our collective conscience towards God’s dream for this world revealed in Jesus Christ. Absent the locusts and honey of course, John has loved and served God well among us, and I am a better minister for the gift of our time together. We will celebrate John’s tenure with First Baptist on Fifth on Sunday through a coffee reception (his favorite!) in the Commons from 9:00-10:15am. Drop by on your way to and from Sunday School, and give him your love.
Together or apart, in darkness or light, this season or any: in Christ, God is with us always!
Together in the work of Love,