This is Pastor Tim’s article appearing in the Evening Leader on Monday, Nov 30, 2020
As many of you know, we have embarked on the season of Advent, the season of preparation so that we can be ready for the celebration of Christmas. This season is celebrated the four Sundays prior to Christmas and broken down into hope, faith, joy and peace. I think that there is no denying that our world can use a healthy dose of all four of these and I am praying very hard that we, as a community, can bask in the encouragement that these Sundays bring.
Advent is a time of year in which it is easy to get caught up in the obvious. Even in this era of social distancing, there are still preparations to make. There are gifts to prepare, meals to plan, events to attend and so on and so forth. All of this preparation is to celebrate remembering a very special Baby who was born and placed in a very special manger. That seems like a celebration worthy of a month of preparation. Christmas is considered by many to be the greatest time of the year, so it is something we want to be fully prepared for when it arrives.
But, in the mad rush to be ready for this celebration, we miss that Jesus’ birth is not the only preparation we are making during Advent. We also preparing for something that has not happened yet. Yes, we want to remind ourselves of what has happened, but this is also a season where we celebrate Jesus’ eventual return, the time when He will return to the world in great power and majesty and set everything right, the time when all of the challenges and limitations of this world will melt away and we will be left in the presence of God. That will be a glorious moment – this world will pass away and we will step from mortality into immortality.
Advent is also a recognition that we believe in the returning Lord. If we get so caught up in what was, we will completely miss what will be. That would be a shame. When would a reminder of Jesus’ return be more appropriate than it is right now? We are facing one of the greatest challenges of the past many years with the pandemic, when so much of what is normal and familiar and meaningful has been taken away. To actively recognize that this current situation will not last forever is a very encouraging theme, and it has always been a dramatic part of the celebration of Advent.
This is where the celebration part of Advent comes in. Yes, we are certainly grateful for what has already happened. The birth of the Baby in the manger is encouraging because that little Baby represents the power of God in human form. Nothing in our world has been the same since. But our current circumstances have made it painfully clear that the whole mess isn’t fixed yet. Not everything has been set right. God’s work in our midst isn’t finished yet and we have complete faith and confidence that there will come a day when the pain and sorrow of this world will be swept away. Has a message like that ever had more impact than it does right now?
So, as you are preparing your Christmas celebrations, in whatever form they are going to take, don’t forget that we are doing more than remembering something that already happened. We are also looking ahead to what God will do in the future. Both are important – you can’t celebrate one without the other. To limit the celebration only to what was limits the hope of what will be. That is not a full appreciation of what this time of year is meant to be.
I hope you had an extra piece of pie on Thanksgiving, I hope you got an incredible deal on Black Friday, and I hope you had a wonderful weekend. But those experiences are over now. We look back on them fondly. It becomes bittersweet if what was is all there is. Don’t limit Advent and even Christmas to what has already been. Make sure you are reminding yourself of what will be.
Celebrating only the past means you are only paying attention to half of the celebration. As good as the past was, the future is going to be even better. That is the full celebration of Advent.