It is the first week of Advent. I have to admit that sneaked up on me this year.
Advent is such a strange experience for the pastor. It was designed to corral and contain the sometimes excessive penitential urge of early Christianity. Our fathers and mothers in the faith apparently really thought that repentance was the heart and core of the Christian walk. They were so intent, that some pastoral types realized that they were not celebrating festivals like Christmas and Easter, they were on full-time repent mode. It seems that the season of Advent was, in part, created to get everyone on the same penitential schedule so that when Christmas came, they would actually celebrate.
To our ears, that just sounds so odd. Our culture starts observing Christmas in some form immediately after Halloween or even before. Black Friday is the kick-off for the whole Christmas orgy of spending. By the time Christmas comes around, we are exhausted and ready to make penitential vows (New Years resolutions) and engage in fasting and gnashing of teeth after we open the credit card bills. The whole schedule is reversed. When we are repenting, they are partying. When we are ready to celebrate, they are repenting. I would like to say that the world is out of step with the Church, but is that a little like the famous London headline of some years ago declaring that the continent is cut off by a storm in the channel?
The world needs Advent, I am sure of it. The suicide rates and other deaths of despair which continue rise bear witness to the world’s need for a message of hope and light. Preach that hope and that light. God has always used the voices of His people to do His best work.