The time of Advent, that begins today, is a time of prayerful, repentant and joyous waiting.
Our most gracious God, we pray for your blessings as we begin our Advent journey. Turn our hearts toward You. Forgive us our selfish preoccupations. Quiet us with Your words of comfort, peace and hope. And as we anticipate Your coming in glory, remind us of Your humble ‘comings’ to us—as a baby in a manger, on a donkey into Jerusalem, as our Savior on the cross, as Your body and blood served at Your table, in the waters of baptism, and in Your most Holy Word.
I sat right on the edge of the sofa, staring a hole through the window, admiring how the sun danced on the worn out Levi’s as they rippled in rhythm on the line. I must have been about nine, but one thing’s for sure—I was still young enough to believe in miracles. The world around me—harsh as it was—had not been able to snuff out the hope. It was my birthday and I knew he would come for me. Daddy was a man who could make you laugh at the drop of hat and break your heart even faster. It was slim pickins in my hand me down wardrobe, but I remember thinking I looked pretty. Memory tells me I must have been wearing red, the color of every festive occasion in my blue-washed life.
I heard my mamaw say, “WHY are you still waitin for him? He’s laid up drunk somewhere and you’ll be lucky to see him by Tuesday.”
Down deep, I knew she was right, but when a girl is waiting for her daddy, she holds on to the slightest ray of maybe. Night came like a ravaging thief and stole her birthday and a little more of her innocence. The darkness and the tears stayed like good friends, and so did the sense that the waiting wouldn’t always be in vain.
Why do we need Advent so desperately?
Because life has broken our hearts. Because time after time, we’ve been disappointed, left out, and let down. Because we need rescuing from the One whose coming changes everything.
The waiting, itself, implies our desperation. We need Him so desperately to come to us. In our sin and our hopelessness, we are wandering around in the darkness, praying for light, for relief, for anything to give us peace.
Maybe the pleasures of this life have lulled us to sleep. We neglect His house. We fail to receive the instruction of His Word. We doubt Him at the Supper. Our hearts are hardened toward Him and closed to our neighbor.
The waiting gives us time to repent, to prepare for the Savior of the world to be born, not just in manger, but in our hearts.
The season of Advent teaches us to live in expectation and repentance—to yearn for Him, to remember what it was like to live in darkness and to give thanks to the One who is always shattering the night.
We are desperate for the One who comes.
The theme of the first Sunday in Advent is hope, and is celebrated by lighting the first violet candle.
Stir up Your power,O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Isaiah 2: 1—5
It shall come to pass in the latter days, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.”For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lor
Romans 13: 11—14
Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
Matthew 21: 1—11 (the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem)
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place tto fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Say to the daughter of Zion, Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Resources for Advent
In the past, I have used this Jesse Tree Book, which was perfect for the ages of my girls. But I wanted something with more depth this year, like this iphone app I found last year, which is a wonderful collection of readings, prayers, hymns and sacred artwork. We will use it and I will be reading Martin Luther’s Advent and Christmas sermons. Ann Voskamp’s wonderful book, The Greatest Gift, is a perfect Advent devotional with Jesse tree ornaments that can be printed and used. (Thank you sweet Ann, for your sacrifice of time and words)
If you are new to the liturgical calendar, this Issues, Etc podcast is incredibly helpful. For more information on Advent, you’ll find this podcast helpful.
This colorful and helpful Church calendar, complete with the seasons, feasts, and colors of the church year can be purchased here.
One of the most peculiar things for me to subscribe to when I became Lutheran was the liturgy and the church calendar. I’ve been in a liturgical church for seven years and I’m just now starting to really anticipate the rhythm and the meaning of it. In some ways, it seems simple and straight forward but then it’s also rich, complex and layered with the purpose of focusing on the gospel of Christ. By following a set calendar and lectionary, the scriptures are covered in a systematic way, with the life and cross of Jesus at its’ center.
Blessed Advent to you all.
(Enjoy a five year old video of my kids singing O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, complete with a little version of Emme and Hank!)