Friday, November 30, 2007
Here is my bulletin article for this Sunday. It is also the basic thought for the sermon - in a nutshell.
According to the traditional Christian calendar, the fourth Sunday before Christmas marks the beginning of Advent. The word Advent means “coming” or “arrival.” The focus of the season is on the celebration of the birth of Jesus, and the anticipation of his return. Advent is far more than simply marking a 2000-year-old event in history; it is celebrating the revelation of God in Christ whereby all of creation might be reconciled to God. That is a process in which we now participate, and the consummation of which we anticipate. We affirm that Christ has come in the flesh, that he is present in the world today through his church, and that he will come again in power. The season of Advent is characterized by a spirit of expectation, anticipation, and longing. There is a yearning for deliverance from the evils of the world. We hope that God, who sometimes seems distant, will rule over all His creation in truth and righteousness. It is that hope that once anticipated the coming of the anointed one – the Messiah. That same spirit now longs for his return to come and set the world right!
For the next four weeks we remember that God’s people once cried out in oppression and anguish, “How long O Lord?” God has always been the Holy One in the midst of sinful people. The desire of His heart has always been to dwell with us. And then, when we least expected it, under the boot of oppression, in a night without light, came THE Light. In a world without hope, true hope was born. In the midst of despair, we heard the singing of angels. The hopes of all the years were pinned, whether the shepherds realized it or not, upon a little baby in a young mother’s arms.
As we prepare for Christmas, let’s recapture this spirit of longing. Look past the hustle and bustle, the gaudy tinsel, and the crass commercialization. Remember that Israel’s prayer was answered that night so long ago in small Bethlehem, and our prayer remains the same: “Come, O Come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel!”