Advent: What to Expect

November 21st, 2016 | John Chandler

13131630_1230939183584728_1533829918003980798_oHey Austin Mustard Seed-ers,

It’s Mason here.

Guess what? Advent is upon us! In the Church’s calendar, the season of Advent marks the beginning of a new year. For the church, Advent is like the New-Years reset button. My hope is that together we can participate in the posture of this season that the Church has taken throughout the ages.

Here are a couple things that you should know beforehand about what we will be doing:

What is Advent?

Advent is a season of expectation. As the Church, we emulate the waiting that Israel did for the coming of its Messiah. We imagine its longing for a savior, for the intervention of Yahweh after a long period of apparent silence. We, like the Israelites, prepare our hearts for the King to come.

However we, as the Church in 2016, recognize that our Messiah has already come humbly in the form of an infant child. While we imagine the experience of the Israelites as they waited, we embody that longing in a different way. For us, we long not for our Savior to come but for our Savior to return.

We recognize that the Kingdom has come but is not yet complete. Across the world, families are fleeing from the throes of war. Militant groups are using scare tactics and guerrilla warfare techniques to assert dominance over innocent people. Corrupt governments are rigging elections to stay in oppressive positions. Our climate groans from pains that we have heaped on it after years of misinformed negligence. Millions of lives are lost each year to preventable diseases contracted due to the lack of clean water. Cancer grows in the bodies of many, mysterious and unable to be tamed.

Why Advent Matters Now

Especially now, as the Church in America, we enter Advent with heavy hearts. Our country has experienced arguably one of the most polarizing elections in our history. While many are celebrating our new president others are greatly lamenting, all the while very few of us empathizing across party lines. Institutional racism, Islamophobia, and all sorts of prejudices and fears invisibly control all of our capacity to embrace our brothers and sisters in love. Though we recognize our Messiah has come, we understand these wounds of division run deep and remain to be healed.

This Advent we hope, we pray, we beg in expectation of our Savior to return. We long for every tear to be wiped away, for every volatile word to be silenced, for every invisible barrier to be knocked down and replaced with Perfect, Divine Love. Though our hurting hearts wait in expectation, we also bear an unwavering hope. We celebrate that God will redeem all of the brokenness in our world and indeed is already doing so. As we live the Church in the world, we embrace all of these unfinished, broken parts with a radical love. We celebrate and we practice incarnation.

What to Expect this Year

As we do this, there are a number of things you can prepare for our community to be doing. The first is that our liturgy will look a little different. Pieces of our space will be adorned in purple to signify the coming of royalty. Our collective prayers will be littered with words of both desperate longing and celebratory hope. We will practice in the tradition of a weekly reading and candle lighting as we journey towards Christmas.

Something new our community will be doing this year is a Wall of Expectation. Along a ledge in our space we will have a line of unlit candles. As you and your family enter into the space each week, I invite you to consider areas of your life, your loved ones’ lives, and our world that you wait in expectation for the Spirit to redeem. As you consider these areas, light one or several candles before or during liturgy. As a church we will see the longing of every member in our community and we will wait in hope together.

Lastly, there may at times be extra pieces of meditation throughout the week such as blog posts or pieces of art. I invite you to take advantage of whatever resources you need to engage in meditation and prayer during this season.

At times this season may feel painful. Other times it may be filled with overwhelming joy and excitement. I invite you to fully experience both, for to do so is to experience what Christ experienced in being incarnated in our world.

I’m excited to share this journey with you and am praying that together we may draw deeper into the heart of our Triune God.