This last Sunday marked the first Sunday of the Advent Season for 2017 and the first time I will preach through the entire Advent season.
Scary right? There is only like a 50 percent chance I screw it up. I’ll keep you posted.
I have always found Advent an interesting season. On the one hand the atmosphere changes and there is almost something in the air. A profound sense of hope and joy that cannot be quenched. Families reunite with each other, strangers seem more willing to help each other and church attendance sky rockets. However, there is another side to the Advent season; the consumeristic side. Advent in the United States isn’t so much about the beginning of “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told” as much as it is the beginning of the “Greatest Shopping Season”. Starting sometime on Thanksgiving Day all the way until the day after Christmas our society stuffs “things” down our throats.
Don’t get me wrong I am not saying by any means that shopping is bad. In fact, I often enjoy going to Home Depot on Black Friday to get my free donut and buy some ridiculous tool that I probably could do without. I think that going shopping on Black Friday with family can be a great way to spend time together and the principal behind gift giving is awesome. The idea that we take time out of our busy lives to think about another and what they would want or need and then provide for that need is one of the foundations of Christianity. So, I have no desire to make a post about how much the Advent season has been ruined by our culture.
However, (there is always a however), I do think it’s necessary to refocus occasionally on the foundations of Advent.
Let me make a safe argument here: the foundations of Advent are hope, joy, love and peace. Furthermore, I would say the foundation to the foundations is hope. I know that didn’t make a ton of sense but let me explain a bit.
In “The Empire Strikes Back” Yoda has this amazing quote about the path to the dark side. “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda. I have always liked this quote for a number of reasons. First there is a “path” to the dark side. You don’t just wake up one day as an evil Sith you gradually become one. Second the “path” starts with fear. How many times do we as Christians refuse to act out of fear? Finally, each negative attribute builds upon each other. Suffering builds on Hate which builds on Anger and Anger on Fear. Sometimes we as Christians think our sins are limited to just one attribute of our lives but the reality is that our sins are so intertwined that it takes real dedicated effort to work through them.
Yoda is a smart dude and probably would have made a great pastor. I mean sure it would be hard to pay attention to his sermons, but I don’t talk like Yoda and I swear when I preach half the people are completely lost. I could spend a whole post writing about this one quote but that’s not really the point of this post.
So why do we care about this Yoda quote. Well the main reason is because of what I will call the “Path” mentality here. Yoda makes it very clear that the turning to the dark side is a path or a process. A process that has a foundation of fear. If the Jedi live in fear it will lead them to another foundation of anger and so on until they are corrupted.
The same is true for Advent, it too has a foundation. The foundation for our Advent season is Hope. Hope leads to joy, joy leads to love, and love leads to peace. Only when we fully understand this hope can we begin to experience the joy associated with Advent.
So, what is our hope? Christ.
I know, I know it’s a basic answer, but it is true. The reason we celebrate Advent is because we are choosing to celebrate the birth of Christ. Christ the Messiah. Advent is the beginning of “The Greatest Love Story Ever Told”! With the Birth of Christ, we have the start of the salvation of God’s creation. We as creation no longer slaves to death but rather we have been purchased at a price. We are now slaves to Christ!
Our Hope is found in the grace of God, the death of Christ and his eventual return. We live in the hope of the now and the not yet. The now being that we have salvation from our sin and the not yet being that someday Christ will return and restore all of creation to Him.
The hope that is built on Christ’s blood produces an inexplicable joy that guides us into the Advent Season.
This advent season build upon the good foundation of Hope! Let hope fill your mind and your soul. Finally, share that hope with everyone you meet.