From the Disk of the Pastor December 2010
Dear Friends in Christ,
As we press into December with snow already on the ground, and temperatures that look more like January, we enter into the season of Advent. The word means “Coming”.
Advent was first marked in 400's in southern France - what was then known as Gaul. It was originally six Sundays in length. It was copied from Lent. In those early days people fasted two or three days each week during Advent. (Typically Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.) By about the 11th Century, the practice was universal in the Western church, but had been reduced to four Sundays. But the season really extends for seven Sundays. Yes, the official season is only four Sundays, but the climax of the old church year, with three Sundays dedicated to Christ’s coming, already resounds with Advent themes.
Over this seven Sunday span, we focus upon Christ’s coming. We work backwards through time. We start in the future. The first events we consider are those associated with the return of Christ at the end of time. We look at the last judgement. We consider the fact that Christ will consign the unrighteous to hell. We also celebrate that Christ will take the believers to heaven. The traditional text to open Advent is Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. From there we continue following the clock backwards until we get to the stable in Bethlehem.
Advent is a time of preparation. But that word has lost its meaning for most people today. The solution is not to abandon the word to reinstall its proper meaning. What does it mean when Christians prepare? It means to repent. Preparation for the Christian is to examine our lives in the light of God’s commands. It means to seek out our own sins - that is to identify where we have sinned in our lives. It also means to rededicate ourselves to amending our lives. All too often we fail to take amending our lives as seriously as we ought. We justify ourselves by saying, well, we can’t ever really stop sinning anyway. This certainly is true. But that does not excuse us. Seeking to amend our lives is part and parcel of repentance. One who is unwilling to amend their life, who would keep on sinning with no care, desecrates the grace of God and treats it with contempt. Such a person is still in their sins.
We are now at the time of Advent. This is a solemn season. It is a season marked by the examination of our lives. We are to consider our sins. We are to amend our lives. This is what it means for the Christian to prepare. Advent and Lent are twin brothers in the Church year. The two seasons are supposed to look like one another. It is also a season marked by some of the richest hymnody in our hymnal. It is a catastrophic tragedy for the church when it is in such a rush to get to Christmas that we don’t sing these priceless treasures. For those who don’t understand what a great treasure our Advent hymns are, I would suggest that you take some time to study the texts of these beautiful pearls of great price. All these things we do to prepare our hearts. Christ is coming. Are you prepared?
Rev. Jody R. Walter
Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.