Advent for Real
I love Advent in ways very much like I love Lent. Both seasons draw us into unspooling narratives characterized as sojourns in hostile territory: the long night of waiting at the start of winter, the desert struggle just as winter melts into spring. Even though we know the contours of the story, where we happen to be—emotionally, spiritually, and personally—comes into play. And it is our own changeability that ensures no two seasons are alike.
But Advent can also feel quaint. The tradition appears to have begun in France around the fourth century as a time of consecration for new converts preparing for Christmas baptism. (There’s a wonderful rhyme there: they’re born into the kingdom of God on the day celebrating the arrival of the One who proclaims the kingdom. It’s kind of neat how all of that works out.)
Advent’s French origins make sense to me, having spent a lot of time in France. While we stereotype the French as very cosmopolitan and sophisticated, their culture reflects a deeply engrained village sensibility. The seasons are closely watched. Local traditions outweigh national or international ones. Non-locals are met with guarded formality that many mistake for rudeness. A trip to the post office can easily absorb an hour or more because the person at the counter wants to talk at length about something that has nothing to do with mail. C’est la vie. This is how life goes.
Thus, it hardly surprises me to hear echoes of village life in Advent customs. High expectation coupled with the commonsense patience. Images of long nights and dancing flame. Telling the story of how Jesus came into the world, building the crèche, planning the feast—the regular-ness of it all, the comfort of how timeworn the traditions are, the invitation to search the metaphorical darkness of an inky sky—these feel “villagey” to me. Quaint.
And yet this Advent also feels as though the whole thing landed in our laps and we’re supposed to figure out what to do with it. A couple days back elderly people and healthcare workers in the UK received the first vaccines for COVID-19. It was a big deal. But it also turned enduring this pandemic into a sweaty waiting game. How soon can we get inoculated? It’s not clear. We have to wait. In the States, we’re still watching for a peaceful transfer of power between the outgoing Administration and its replacement. We wait. All over the world, economies are on hold, as are education, family events, vacations, the random joys of aimless shopping or wandering into a pub for a quick beer—all of it delayed. We wait.
Meanwhile, we’re admonished to stay wise and remain patient.
In 2020 Advent got very real. It also got very villagey, as our social circles constricted to a handful of friends and family, our options dwindled to the simplest pleasures, our work became less definitive and our relationships once again asserted their preeminence. Our thoughts are text-friendly direct, our emotions reduced to a paltry array of emojis. Responses are seldom quick enough. Wherever we turn, we are waiting. The night search continues.
In 2020 Advent got very real. Think about that.
Complete your holiday weekend with a joyful and uplifting worship experience! Join Gather at 5pm CST on Sunday, December 27, as we welcome the Christ Child into the world. The service will premiere on the Gather Austin-Oak Park channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCldChQ-w8vS1vkbSDyyxLOQ
We need your help!
As we think about the future of Gather, please let us know what gifts you bring and would like to share with the community. There are many roles that have to come together to make Gather happen every week. This includes setup, technical support, worship, managing handouts and information, coordinating drinks, and teardown. We need your help. Please let us know what type of service you’d be interested in!
Watch God Work,
Tim & Shea
As we prepare to become a vibrant worshipping community, we invite you to enjoy a Spotify playlist that captures the kind of worship we hope to embrace. Give it a spin while you’re driving. Make it your workout jam. Add it to your devotional time. Most of all, feel yourself becoming part of a sacred village of believers who love their God and one another!
Check out the Gather Worship Playlist here.