From the Pastor . . .
At this time of the year, it always occurs to me how counter cultural the Church is.
First, while the world is celebrating Christmas, buying presents and going to parties, the Church is in the season of Advent, a season of repentance and reflection.
Then, while the world is sadly packing up an opened Christmas, the Church is celebrating Christmas and the gift of a child, a Son, that has been given to us.
And then while the world is pulling down its trees and Christmas lights, the Church calls out its Epiphany proclamation: Rise, shine, for your light has come!
Interesting, isn't it?
So maybe, like me, you feel a bit schizophrenic this time of year! Living in two worlds, a bit out of step in both. But maybe that's a good thing . . .
For it is a reminder that we are living in two different worlds - that we are citizens of the kingdom of God and yet living in the world. It is also a reminder that we are living in an in-between time - the time between Jesus' first coming, as the baby in the manger, and His second coming, when He will come again in glory. And so as Christians we are always living in a certain tension.
Now, some would say that we should ease this tension and that the Church should become more like the world. Unbelievers won't ever "get us" if we don't. It's the only chance we have. So get rid of Advent and get with the program of joy with the world.
I think that would be a mistake. Advent is a time for Christians to look seriously into the darkness of our situation before leaping too quickly and too cheaply into the light. Advent is a time of focusing on the gravity of the human predicament, the bleak outlook of the world into which Jesus came, into which the Word was made flesh, to save it.
But also some make the equal and opposite mistake of wanting the world to be like the Church - to make the world stop celebrating Christmas too soon and have Advent with us. But this too, I think, would be a mistake. The world would only see us as gloom and doom killjoys, sour pusses with nothing to offer them.
For the truth is that Advent is a season not only of repentance and reflection, but also of joy - just a different kind of joy. The joy of our Saviour's coming not only at Christmas, but the joy of His coming to us with His forgiveness now, and the joy of His coming to give us eternal life in the end. And these are the joys so many people need, especially those for whom an end-of-the-year manufactured holiday brings no quick and easy joy because of loss - the loss of loved ones, the loss of job, the loss of homes or marriages. Advent says there is joy for you, too.
Yes, for we have a Saviour who knows what you are going through. A Saviour who knows the pain and sadness, the heartache and cares, the worries and problems. For He came to be with us in them, and take us through them. And so the Church is joyful, too, with repentant joy (Advent), incarnation joy (Christmas), and baptismal joy (Epiphany), and with the joy of past, present, and future. These are the joys that only Christ can provide. The joys that last through all the seasons and tragedies of our lives. True joy.
So as we go through this next month or two, as you live with one foot in two different worlds, rejoice! Take it all in and savor the flavor of each season, in the world and in the Church, and enjoy all the people and joys you receive. Gifts from Him to you.
His servant and yours,