I was thinking this week about a friend, a rector, who in the middle of summer has his congregation sing “Joy to the world” as a reminder that the good news of Jesus’ birth is good news all year long. It often throws people a bit. He likes that.
I was reminded of this as I finished up the 2016 Advent calendar that I create each year with a brilliant collaborator, Susan Elliott. (She’s the brains of the operation. I do the sketches.) This will be our twentieth year producing this piece. Time flies when you’re having fun. But I’ll be the first to admit that it is challenging to wrap my mind around Advent when we’ve just celebrated Pentecost and by the way, the beach beckons.
Thanks be to God, I came across a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called “God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.” It’s about Advent, for sure. But it’s about so much more. Bonhoeffer makes this point about that short season:
The Advent season is a season of waiting, but our whole life is an Advent season, that is, a season of waiting for the last Advent, for the time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth.
Good stuff. Here’s more:
God is in the manger, wealth in poverty, light in darkness, succor in abandonment. No evil can befall us, whatever [men] may do to us, they cannot but serve the God who is secretly revealed as love and rules the world and our lives.
That’s a message for any time of year, for sure. Okay, one more:
Advent creates people, new people.
Each of the liturgical seasons tells a story that is true all the time. In my own spiritual journey, with its joys and challenges, that’s particularly true of Advent. I was grateful to stumble across Bonhoeffer’s vision of God in the manger, reminding me that our whole life is an Advent season, that we are always meant to be looking for where God is coming into the world, expecting that to happen. We are always to be seeking Christ’s arrival, which often comes in other people (as irritating as that may be). We are always ready to be made new, always hopeful that we will see the day of Christ’s arrival, and that we will know it when we see it. Who knows, it may be June 6, 2016 that we see Christ in some new way.
And the seeking, the spirit of Advent goes on all the time, in all the time we’re given. To that point Bonhoeffer offered a reminder that life is a journey, not a destination. He said:
While it is good that we seek to know the Holy One, it is probably not so good to presume that we ever complete the task.
Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King,
by thine all sufficient merit, raise us to thy glorious throne.
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