Message from Pastor Swanson (December 2019)
Advent is coming. Advent will be here in just a few short days. I’m glad for that. I received some not-so-pleasant news last week, so I need Advent. I need what Advent can give me. Advent means “coming”, which, for those of us in the Church, is interpreted as God’s appearance among us. Advent is the arrival of the Lord in our midst, that God has kept the promise to be with us always (see Matthew 28:20) and stand beside us forever as our Good Shepherd. I need that. I’ll guess you need it, too. In this world of chaos and war and hate and division of every kind, it takes more than human wherewithal and tough-minded self-confidence to get us through. Advent is necessary. God’s appearance in our lives is what it takes to manage life day-by-day and even hour-by-hour.
Now let me be clear here. Advent is not the run-up season to Christmas. Advent is not a “prep time” for us to haul the decorations out of the attic and get all the greenery in place and start playing carols the day after (or is it the week before?) Thanksgiving. Advent is its own separate season of the Church year and is not part of the Christmas season. In fact, I heard someone say the other day, “There are twelve days of Christmas and none of them are in November.” More than that, there are twelve days of Christmas and only seven of them are in December, beginning on the 25th! In the rush to celebrate the first coming of Christ, we forget that he is here among us now. It is unfortunate, because if our only hope and joy is to remember a bygone event (Christmas), then, in the words of St. Paul, “We are of all people, most to be pitied.”
The promise of Jesus is to be with us here. Advent is about Jesus standing with us when the call comes saying life isn’t going so well, that the diagnosis doesn’t look good and you better start praying if you never prayed before. Christmas is a remembrance that Christ came long ago, it is an event of the past, an occurrence that happened in time and is behind us. It is well that we celebrate Christmas, but if it is merely an event of the past, then it offers me nothing for today. Advent is God’s loving promise to me now, in this hour, when I need him here. This Advent is the living Lord holding our hand when we are in grief, comforting us in our despair, and celebrating with us in joy, too.
What an amazing gift it is to know that our Lord and Savior is with us during these dark and gloomy late-Autumn days. What a joy it is to know that nothing can separate us from God’s love. Then we can live these days without trying to create a “perfect holiday’ or “Christmas like it used to be” (which has nothing to do with the real Christmas story). Instead, we can live as the people our Lord wants us to be; serving God and neighbor because Christ has come to us with forgiveness, life, and salvation. Do this and Christ’s advent comes every day.
Near the end of the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the voice of the Lord booms out an Advent message: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.”
That is the Advent promise I need to hear now more than ever. With you, I eagerly await the approach of our Savior and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus.”