Reflections on Advent by Brett McCracken
Endless parties, crowded malls, family drama, credit card debt, and more mistletoe and merriment than we know what to do with… Christmas in our culture has become an overstuffed monument to excess that often feels like more trouble than it’s worth.
But beneath all the gingerbread, glitter and chaos of the Christmas season is the simple, beautiful advent of Christ: His coming to earth, and His coming again.
The sacredness of this season may seem at odds with the peppermint-scented commercialism all around us, but in a way the jarring juxtaposition is appropriate.
Advent is a season that embraces tension and paradox. It’s about the now and the not yet. Contentedness and longing. Pain and hope. Darkness and light. What has come and what will come.
Advent celebrates the moment when true light entered our dark world. “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light” (Is. 9:2). The baby in Bethlehem was hope, redemption, God with us: Present in the midst of our suffering; familiar with our struggle. Emmanuel.
The baby was a flicker of light that became a flame that swept across the world, illuminating the dark in all corners of creation. The traditional Christmas Eve candlelight service is a good image of this.
But the darkness persists. The weary world rejoices at Christ our hope. But the world is still weary. The beauty of Advent is that it accepts weariness, even embraces it. It is joy in the midst of weariness. Joy mixed with stress, struggle, pain, lament… As we wait for Jesus to return and right all wrongs.
This Advent, quiet your stressed self and nourish your weary soul by dwelling on the beauty of the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Our friends at the Biola University Center for Christianity, Culture & the Arts have put together a great resource to help us focus our attention on what matters this season. It’s called The Advent Project.
Together as a church, we are going to be using the Advent Project during December as a community devotional that incorporates Scripture, music, visual art and prayer. In the midst of the busyness of this season, the Advent Project is a great way to stay grounded in what it means to celebrate God’s first Advent even as we wait expectantly for His return. The rhythms of daily reflection during this season will help us adopt the proper posture as we look to Christmas and also as we look to the eschatological vision of the ultimate victory of light over dark: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” (Rev. 21:4)
As Biola states in the introduction to the project:
“Advent calendars come in all shapes and sizes (who doesn’t love the ones with hidden chocolates inside the windows?) but what they have in common is a daily rhythm of anticipatory reflection. They remind us not only that Christmas is coming, but that the days between now and then—the waiting—matters too. Advent is as much about the solemn tension of “now and not yet” as it is about the joy and magnificence of our present gift: God in flesh, our hope divine.”
Indeed, God in flesh is our hope divine. Ponder that amazing truth this Christmas season.
You can read more of Brett McCracken's work at Still Searching