The Tension of Advent

The Tension of Advent

This is a re-post of the article I wrote for our Advent Newsletter.  I wanted to make it available to you, and I pray that God will continue to bless you as we live in this time between the times.

From Geeseytown/Newry Dec. - Jan 2011 Newsletter

The Advent Season is just around the corner (and depending on when you read this may be upon us) and I wanted to take a few moments here to talk about this season, what it is about, and some of the themes that we will be encountering as we are in this season of preparation before Christmas. That is what Advent is, a season of preparation, a time when we remember that we once waited for the birth of the Messiah.

I want to point out that there is a strange tension that exists in this season. On one hand we are waiting for Christmas, for the time when we can celebrate the birth of “Sweet Little Baby Jesus Asleep in the Hay”. When we finally get to Christmas we will have all those familiar images of shepherds, and cattle that are lowing, and stars, and mangers. We will, at Christmas, have all those “Sweet” images that surround the birth of an infant and the wonderful announcement that “Christ is Born”.

But before we get there, Advent isn’t a picture of nice and sweet and comforting little scenes. Listen to the gospel texts and the voice of the prophets as we go through the next four Sundays. We hear about stars falling from heaven, we will hear about the moon turning to blood and the sun becoming as black as sack cloth, and in the middle of all of this is this wild and crazy John the Baptist wearing camel skins, eating bugs, and screaming for us to “REPENT!” because the Lord is coming.

What is going on here? These two things don’t seem to go together. Images of the stars falling and the wild man yelling at us don’t seem to go along with babies and mangers. But there is a reason for this. Because although God did this unbelievable thing of being born, of lowering himself to come into our world in a human body like we have – Jesus Christ was and always will be the one true God of all.

Jesus is one with the One and Only God, that God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of the Old Testament. In fact the very one who shook the top of Mt. Sinai, who divided the Red Sea, who fed the people manna in the wilderness, the one who created all that is. It is this same, this very same one who was born to a virgin girl in a little cave in Bethlehem. Our Lord and Savior is not just the “Sweet Baby Jesus”. Our Lord and Savior is that God Almighty, our incarnate heavenly Father who holds heaven and earth in the palm of his hand, and who is the very power that brought all things into being.

What Advent tells us is that this is the one who is coming. The great Ancient of Days from whom power streams forth like fire, that is who is coming. The Lord who divides the waters and whose intentions creates all that is, that is who is coming. The Lord whose very word is truth, and whose truth is like a two edge sword cutting through evil and darkness, that is who is coming. The one who is life itself, the one who is more than we know, the one who is in all things but is not limited by anything, the one before even his name the demons shriek and cower in fear, that is who is coming. Jesus Christ, Lord of Heaven and Earth, Judge of the Nations, the Gateway to Eternal Life, the one who is Eternal Life itself, he is the one who is coming. By doing so this great and powerful Lord of lord and King of kings, is rearranging and changing all expectation and turning the world and all of creation upside down and on its head.
That is why during Advent we hear these messages that point to this Lord who is coming. The Lord who was promised. The Lord who is greater and more powerful than all that can ever be and all that we can ever imagine. Jesus is coming everybody, and that changes everything.

That is exactly why we hear of the ground quaking, the heavens shaking, and we are told to repent, to turn to abandon our evil. Because the one who is all power and might – the one who is simply “GOD ALMIGHTY” is about to show up.

Advent, is therefore, about getting our attention. It is yelling at us to “WAKE UP!”, and to “PAY ATTENTION!”, because God is here.The tension of Advent then is that we have these messages telling (or yelling at us) to look for the Lord to repent and to do what we ought, because the great and powerful one is coming. But when he gets here what do we see?

When great and powerful Lord of all arrives, we see the little baby. We see that God who is all that we have said and so much more than we can imagine has come to us in a way we couldn’t have imagined. Jesus comes to us, the one who deserves all glory, laud and honor, as the one who has none of the honors that the world bestows. Jesus is born as the lowest of the low, among the poorest of the poor. Jesus is born homeless, only the breath of donkeys and cows to keep him warm, and a teenage mother to protect this little child.

That is how God comes. The amazing thing is that Advent reminds us that God, who is all that can imagine God to be, came to us not in glory but in lowliness. God who is all that is, came to us in a way that we might come to him. Not crouching because we are terrified by his power, but God lovingly invites us to come to the stable, and to look down into the manger, and to see the Savior of all.

So this Advent season, and this Christmas season, we are called to remember that it isn’t just about “Sweet Little Baby Jesus”. It is about the Great God who stands over the heavens and who controls all of creation – that is the one who comes to us. Advent reminds us that though we may want to run to the manger – this isn’t just any little baby we are dealing with. This is life itself, and life comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord – so that we might come to him.

With that, May God Bless you and Keep you this Advent and Christmas season.
In Christ
Pastor Mike

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