Friday, December 3, 2010

We Need A Little Advent

Every December the LWML ladies at Redeemer Lutheran, Huntington Beach host a wonderful event known as Advent by Candlelight. It is a joy to receive their hospitality as we dine on exquisite deserts, sing a few hymns and listen to God's Word of comfort and peace during this Advent season. The following devotion is a little something I prepared for last night's event. It would not have been written were it not for a ginormously enjoyable article by my good friend (and distant cousin) Rev. Hans Fiene in the November Lutheran Witness. His little article along with the memories of Alexander's "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," gave me the perfect idea for a humorous, yet thoughtful Advent "homily." And in case you're wondering, Christmass is not mispelled. Let's keep the mass in Christmass
Advent by candlelight is the perfect name for this evening.  It’s not just because the calendar doesn’t say December 25th yet.  Advent is its own season.  Your pastors are always telling you that Advent is not pre-Christmass; that it's not just preparation for Christmass – It’s not Chradvent or Adventmass; Christmass has 12 days of its own after all.  Advent is a season of repentance; waiting, lowliness and preparation.  These are all good, right and salutary things. 
And yet in our daily lives, Advent seems to be everything but the calm before the storm…“let’s face it, it’s hard to celebrate Advent when the demands of celebrating Christmass, both the true version and the secular version, are weighing you down.  With parties and presents, candles and credit breathing down your neck from the moment Thanksgiving ends, it’s not always easy to have the proper Advent frame of mind” (How to Escape the Christmas Madness, Lutheran Witness, Rev. Hans Fiene, November 2010).
So, if your legs are still aching from standing in line at the “you-know-what-crack-of-dawn” and you are all twisted like a peppermint stick because you only bought half of the stuff on your list for 25% of the price you hoped.  Pause.  Take a deep breath.  Listen to the words of John, the Advent man: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  With aching legs He walked to Jerusalem bearing our cross to buy you back  from sin and death, not 25, 50 or 75% off, but 100% saved, forgiven, redeemed. When you need to step outside on the porch to escape the Christmass madness remember, from Jesus’ very first breath in the manger to His last breath on the cross – He lived and died and lives for you.
If your legs are still aching and your boss is a total Grinch and you won’t be receiving that bonus check you’re expecting despite the increased workloads this holiday season leaving your knuckles as white as snow with tension…and those TPS reports need cover sheets and you have meetings coming out your tinsel toes and you’d rather deck your fellow employees than the halls.  Pause.  Take a deep breath.  And listen to the prophet Isaiah: For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His Name shall be called, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  He is Immanuel the God who is one of us, God for us, Messiah, Savior, Lord.  He was born to carry your burdens.  He became flesh to take away your sin.  When you find yourself burning the Yule-log at both ends…remember, Jesus is the beating heart of Christmas and He is also the pulsating life of Advent.
If your legs are still aching and your boss is a total Grinch and your children deserve nothing but a lump of coal in their stocking because they’ve been naughty cotton headed ninny muggings (more than once or twice), your fingers look like a pin cushion from sowing the ears last minute on the polar bear costume for the “winter solstice pageant”, and you’d rather be putting those kids up on the roof-top than the blow-up-Santa that they shot with the BB-gun (I told you, you’d shoot someone’s eye out, kid)!  Pause.  Take a deep breath.  And listen to the Words the angel said to Joseph: “She will bear a Son and you shall call His Name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 
After the egg-nog has worn off and you are feeling ho-ho-horrible and you’re just about fa-la-la-la-la-ed out remember that His manger is the paradise at which our souls reclineth, for there, in the Word made flesh, is the One whose voice the wind and waves obey, the One who rested in Mary’s bosom is the One who goes to the cross that you might rest in His almighty arms.
If your legs are still aching and your boss is a total Grinch and your children deserve nothing but a lump of coal and the only ones coming to town are your relatives and your head won’t stop spinning what with all the TSA pat downs, presents to wrap, Christmass hams to get in the oven, parties to attend, cards to write, concerts to sing, children to dress and get out the door and in the pew 7:31 on Christmas Eve.  Exhale.  Take a deep breath.  And listen to the angels sing: Fear not, behold, I bring you Good News of a great joy that will be for all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 
ness is piled higher than a Minnesota snow drift and you're starting to feel like a scrooge (BAAH, Humbug!) and you'd love nothing more than to tell that guy who cut you off in line to kiss something else under the mistletoe and your head is spinning and your legs are aching and your boss is a Grinch and your kids deserve nothing but lumps of coal and the only ones coming to town are the relatives and your Christmas is quickly turning into an Oh Holy Nightmare...and you haven’t had a silent night in weeks and you need relief from a season that has buried you up to your nose so bright in a pile of guilt and worry – remember the Words of our Lord: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”  This is Jesus, your Savior, born in swaddling clothes, crucified, dead and buried in swaddling clothes, for you.  This is the Christ, our God Most High, who hears your sad and bitter cry; He will Himself your Savior be, from all your sins to set you free.
Don’t let Christmass steal your Advent.  Don’t let the world Grinch you of the joy that is yours in Christ.  Advent is a season of repentance, waiting, lowliness and preparation – it is here, in the midst of these things, in Advent, where our Lord meets us with all His forgiving, fulfilling and exulting joy.  “In a season where it seems like everyone and everything is weighing you down, Advent is here to build you up by showing you the love of your Savior, upon whom we wait.  In a season that is often full of stress and chaos, Advent never fails to give you the peace of God in the forgiveness of Christ whose birth, life and death we celebrate” (How to Escape the Christmas Madness, Lutheran Witness, Rev. Hans Fiene, November 2010).  We need a little Advent, right this very minute.  And in Jesus, that’s exactly what we have.  Listen to The Holy Gospel according to St. Luke, the second chapter:
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. (Luke 2:1-20).

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