This season, the season of Advent, has become one of my favorites. These days mark the start of the church year, something for which I gained an appreciation in pastoral ministry. Each passing year, governed by the rhythms of Christ’s life, grows in richness.
In one sense, Advent and its Resurrection counterpart Lent serve as reminders, a buffer calling our attention to events in the church year that we dare not neglect. In congregational and pastoral life, Advent marked the beginning of the busiest season of the year. I loved the entire season, and the entire Lenten/Easter season; No football coach complains about how busy they are during Super Bowl week. Maybe this trivializes the sacred, but I always saw these seasons as “our Super Bowl.”
It’s a little different around campus at the Free Lutheran Bible College and Seminary. Our concerts and the events around them soak us in beauty and richness. Staff, students, parents, alumni, families, and our community rejoice in celebration of Christ’s birth. Then comes finals week and the launching toward home of students who have been studying God’s Word for four months. It’s amazing what God can accomplish in just one semester. What makes the season different is the stark quietness that follows. Just when your pastor and congregation are diving into their season, we at FLBCS are wrapping up one semester and setting the table for the next. It is quiet around campus, sometimes eerily so.
I’ve learned to embrace that sudden quiet with solemnity and tears of joy with family and friends.
“Advent”, more than “appearing”, marks this season. The word derives from Latin roots that mean “to come.” In advent we await the coming of Christ, even while longing for the second coming of Christ. But all of our longing began with His coming: He came unto His own, and His own did not receive Him. (John 1:11)
Our Lutheran tradition quickly embraces the gospel that—when rightly understood—our sins stand forgiven through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Other Christian traditions emphasize Christ’s birth, His incarnation, the “en-fleshing” of the God who always was, taking on human flesh and dwelling among us.
While some view the incarnation as mostly a practical necessity (how could Christ die if he was not born first?), others deem it foundational. Christ came into the world. He entered into our brokenness. The pain, alienation, and sadness you feel and want to flee… Christ entered in.
The Advent season brings music to our home, with favorites too many to mention.* Our family drinks in the season. Christmas still comes and goes too fast and too soon, but Advent calls us to attention: “Don’t miss this!”
One such favorite, “Deliver Us,” imagines a prayer of confession by an Israelite on the eve of the Exodus. The bondage of Egypt had been eclipsed by the self-imposed bondage of sin, leading to a simple cry: “Deliver us.”
Our enemy, our captor is no pharaoh on the Nile
Our toil is neither mud nor brick nor sand
Our ankles bear no calluses from chains, yet Lord, we’re bound
Imprisoned here, we dwell in our own land
Our sins they are more numerous than all the lambs we slay
Our shackles they were made with our own hands
Our toil is our atonement and our freedom yours to give
So Yahweh, break this silence if you can
Deliver us, deliver us
Oh Yahweh, hear our cry
And gather us beneath your wings tonight
He has come to us, and delivered us. This is Advent.
But to as many as received Him He gave to the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
*Caroline Cobb, Jeremy Erickson, Handel’s Messiah, Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God,” from which “Deliver Us” derives
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