Advent is part of the scaffolding that enables us to climb up and around the beauty of the Gospel message.
By Bill Winn. Pastor, Grace Communion Hanover
Once in my early twenties, I was driving a large dump truck early in the morning on roads covered with a proper northwest frozen snowy slush! The ruts in the slush had frozen and once I got in them, I could not get out. Everything was too frozen and too slick. Because I’d grown up nineteen feet above sea level on the coast of North Carolina, I had little experience with icy conditions, so I laughed it off at first. It was all fun and games until the frozen ruts led me to a parked pickup truck. I managed to slow to around three miles per hour, but the weight of the truck times the speed of… something Einstein said… meant that the taillights on the pickup truck were broken and the fiberglass hood on the dump truck shattered.
Let’s admit not all ruts are bad, but I think most of them are. Life was given to us to excite, challenge, and enjoy. The shared life of the Father, Son, and Spirit is a life free from boring old ruts! So, what does all this have to do with Advent?
Sometimes we become so accustomed to our traditions that we lose their real meaning. In the words of Inigo Montoya from the movie, The Princess Bride, “Let me explain. No, there is too much … let me sum up.”
The Christian calendar is not a legalistic device intended to control, rather it is a scaffolding that allows us to climb up and around the beauty of the gospel message all year long. Advent is simply a section of that scaffolding.
Advent is the season where we try to recreate a sense of anticipation similar to what the ancients must have felt as they longed for the coming Messiah. It is also a time when we concurrently long for the Second Coming of the Lord.
At Grace Communion Hanover, we celebrate Advent by lighting the traditional Advent candles, singing songs of anticipation, and by hearing expository messages about each week’s theme.
The order we use is Hope, Love, Joy, Peace. We like this order because to us hope signifies the core meaning of the season—our hope for Jesus’ coming. God is love—this is what motivated the Father, Son, and Spirit to create the cosmos and give us a place in it to experience their joy and their peace.
We have a hand-forged iron Advent wreath that we decorate with greenery. We also like to vary between purple and pink candles or burgundy and pink with the Christ candle in the center of the wreath.
Each week we sing songs that reflect the hopeful anticipation of the season, and we let one of the youngsters light the candle. (Pro tip: find someone handy who can circumvent the safety device on those long grill lighters so that little hands can operate them. Be sure someone locks the lighter away after the service so no little hands can play with it. Don’t ask.)
It is always a joy to see the little ones participate. It may even be nice to help them lead the congregation in a prayer that ties in with the theme of the week.
Advent is really what you make of it. We are limited only by our imaginations, so remember you are in union with an infinite source of creativity.
Why not leave a comment and tell us how your church or fellowship group celebrates during the season of Advent?