One lively feature of Advent is its attention to reality. The season’s down-to-earth emphases course through prayers, texts, hymnody and sermons. These themes, stories and invitations seem more tangible, more connected to the emotions that live inside me right now. Advent’s warnings, hopes and promises don’t mince words. I am less moved to stand or stare in wonder—that will come soon enough at Christmas—and more likely to think, “This is important; God is calling me to action.”
John the Baptist comes to mind, but so does Mary, the mother of Jesus. John packs graphic truth into his wilderness sermons, Mary echoes Hannah’s ancient song of justice and hope. The fumings of Old Testament prophets zing my conscience and not-so-gently probe some of my deepest spiritual questions—my identity and purpose right now. It’s hard to pray, “Stir us, Lord,” without remembering viscerally all the times in my life when the Spirit has done exactly that. Advent worship replenishes my soul, and energizes me at every turn.
Pre-Christmas fervor doesn’t soften the edges of Advent’s insistence. I can’t wiggle my way past my need for repentance, my fears about the future, my sense of powerlessness in the face of evil. There soon will be time enough for the quiet thanks for Baby Jesus, but now…? Now the urgency of Advent seems fresh, necessary and concrete.
That’s why Advent is my favorite season of the church year. Like the crisp late-autumn air that makes me glad to be alive, Advent reassures me that I can contribute to the fulfillment of God’s will. Like the warmth of this cozy home, Advent reminds me that I am in good company—the saints of old and the saint in the pews around me.
Because this Jesus Way is real, so am I!
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