You remember that scene. Charlie Brown is at his wit’s end, distraught and disillusioned about Christmas. Surely it has more to do with all these trivial trappings, all this commercialized nonsense.“Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?!” he shouts when his plans of trying to make sense of Christmas are falling through. Linus pipes up, takes centre stage and recounts a portion of St. Luke chapter 2.
The reflections I’ll share over the next month are drawn from Luke 2 and will align with the traditional Advent themes of hope, peace, joy and love. They’ll also revolve somewhat around the question: what happens when God turns up?
Advent simply means “arrival” or “coming”, and is the season preceding Christmastide within the liturgical calendar year. Millions of Christians worldwide recognize Advent as a time of preparation and contemplation ahead of Christmas. At Advent we look back and we look forward. We look back to imagine what it was like before Christ’s arrival in order to appreciate the Christmas news with fresh eyes and ears. We also look forward because we still await Christ’s second Advent (arrival) when: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)
So, Advent has something to do with both thankfulness and longing; appreciating what has already happened through Christ, and aching for what we’ve yet to experience through Christ. Advent, I would add, can be for everyone. Even people who might not describe themselves as Christian can find a home in Advent. We all live in a world that’s been bathed in love and hope, but still in desperate need of much, much more. We’ve all had a taste of goodness, and long for the rest of what else we hope is out there. Advent helps us make space for our longing, our waiting, our hoping. Advent helps us face the world as it is, and ourselves as we are.
Through reflection and anticipation we end up somehow finding ourselves more present with God. Life with God isn’t just about a belief in something long past, or wishful thinking about the future. If God is anywhere, affirm the scriptures, God’s found in the present. So Advent also has something to do with sitting still long enough to discover God where we are; with waiting and longing and expecting for God to turn up.
I hope these reflections bless you during the season. I’ve included questions for each week in service of individual reflection, group, family or roommate discussion, or comment section dialogue. Here’s a look at where we’re going.
December 2 | Hope (too good to be true?)
December 9 | Peace (forgetting what we think we know about power)
December 16 | Joy (receiving God)
December 23 | Love (fullness on the fringes)
(and in case you’re wondering about how to get your hands on When God Was Little, you can order print copies here in time for Christmas, or read the whole thing, post by post, starting here)