If you’ve ever watched a professional chef (besides the competition ones), they will often have pre-cut and -measured ingredients so that when a customer orders a dish, most of the time-consuming work is completed. If you’ve ever ordered a sandwich at Subway, the meat and cheese are already pre-portioned. Ingredients have been prepared to better prepare your meal when you want it.
Today is Thanksgiving (in the US, at least). A holiday that is culturally identified as involving overeating and family gatherings. COVID has changed that. Many, if not most, families will not be having extended family gatherings.
Thanksgiving has also been the “gateway” to the Christmas season. It used to be that mere hours after people recovered from overeating, all the malls would turn everything over, and the Christmas (shopping) season would begin.
Not every Thanksgiving, but this Thanksgiving is the beginning of the Advent season. In the church year, one prepares for the Sunday to come. As this Sunday is the First Sunday of Advent, so it is time to prepare for Advent.
What is Advent? We often shortcut it to mean the days before Christmas. This is certainly true. It is also incomplete. For the ancient church, Advent wasn’t just about the birth of Jesus; it was about the return of Christ. Depending on the era, there would even be an emphasis on the Return rather than the birth.
There hasn’t been a year like 2020 in decades. This might be the time to look at Advent as something far more than Christmas.
Asaph (the Psalmist) wants God to come back (not that God really left). Asaph is looking for a restoration of the relationship between the people and God. Asaph recognizes that it really is that the people turned their backs on God, and yet he has faith in the faithful God. As Asaph was part of David’s retinue, we can imagine what must have still been going on around David, as David chose to follow God, and not the unknown gods.
Zechariah’s words are strong, too. In them we see that the place of prophets and seers is nothing when it does not honor God. In fact, the implication being that the prophets and seers might even be “living” idols, rather than faithful followers of and speakers for God.
Zechariah’s and Asaph’s words still trust in God and expect God’s restoration of the people.
While the Asaph’s and Zechariah’s words are full of trust in God, neither avoid a harsh reality. The people need redemption. They needed to be the people of God again. In Zechariah’s time, the temple was being rebuilt. However, the people whose ancestors had lost their way (with God) were just as lost and needed something greater.
Regardless of your perspective of who the Beast is, the vision in Revelation is that the people of God, the church, will go through trying times. The implication is of pain, being outcast, and even dying. All because they believe in Jesus.
Whether you believe that Jesus is coming back tomorrow, or you are just waiting for 2020 to end, expectation is part of that. Advent is the anticipation of something new, whether it is the birth of a child or the return of the King.
How do you prepare your life and heart for Advent? If you knew Jesus would come back on Christmas Day, what would you do?
Jesus, as we prepare our hearts for this Advent season, may we look to the innocence of a baby and to the righteousness of the King. Amen.