A MOMENT FOR MISSION
Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. — Matthew 3:2 NRSV
The celebration of Advent spans the four Sundays before Christmas and ends on Christmas Eve.
When we celebrate Advent in The United Methodist Church, we practice waiting. We imagine the Hebrew people — held captive in their own lands by a foreign power — waiting for a Messiah. We remember John the Baptist’s call to prepare the way of the Lord. We remember the arrival of Jesus as a fragile baby in a stable.
Advent is a time for reflection, for pause. It is counter to our cultural norms. When we contrast the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season with the contemplative practices of Advent, we know this to be true. When we pause to peer into the simple, dirty stable where Jesus made his grand entrance into the world, we see that Jesus is a different kind of king.
The gentle call to wait is competing with the noise of mall music, Christmas shopping countdowns and the often-frantic holiday activities. Advent reminds us of why we are celebrating and that the true gift of Christmas is Jesus, the Emmanuel-God with us.
Advent is the beginning of our liturgical year in The United Methodist Church. A new year is a natural time for us to reflect and renew our commitments. When we practice the pause of Advent, there is space for us to take account of our actions or inactions as we have been following Christ; room to repent our missteps or steps not taken; and opportunity to recommit to walk with the God who has walked with us.
God, grant us courage to slow down and make room for the coming Emmanuel. Help us to listen for your voice amidst the noise that we might reflect and repent. Prepare us that we might walk in your ways with confidence knowing you are with us. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Second Sunday of Advent - Gracious God, we lift our voices to glorify you! You sent your Son Jesus to lead us in wisdom and mercy. His kindness to the poor and meek reveals the harmony of your heavenly kingdom. Help our church’s ministries to demonstrate your love for the world. We dedicate our tithes and offerings to bless people in our community who are searching for Christ’s abiding peace. We pray in his name. Amen. (Isaiah 11).
In The United Methodist Church, we begin celebrating Advent the fourth Sunday before Christmas and continue until Christmas Eve.
Many churches use Advent wreaths during this time. A candle is lit, scripture is read and a meditation is spoken to help the congregation focus on this time of waiting for the Messiah. Some churches provide Advent calendars for church members and families to work through each day with a thought or activity to meditate on during the days and weeks of Advent.
Advent comes from the word “adventus” in Latin, which means coming or visit. This is exactly our aim when we celebrate Advent. We are reminded of the Hebrew people living under a foreign authority waiting for a Savior. We are reminded of John the Baptist’s call to repent.
While we are tempted to join the clamor of creating a Christmas to remember, Advent calls us to pause, reflect and prepare for the coming visitor, to make room in our lives for Jesus, the coming Messiah.