Another RSVP this Christmas season? Advent beckons

It's the most wonderful time of the year. For me, at least, it typically is.

I truly enjoy this Christmas season full of festive cheer: hanging lights on the fir tree, unpacking the ornaments and memories from a dusty Christmas bin, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, making snow angels, sipping egg nog, watching Home Alone, wrapping gifts. Christmas!

As I grow older, though, my eyes are obtaining new lenses to see the gorge that often lies between Christmas and Advent.

Though the wider culture doesn't use the term "Christmas" any more, in view of the diverse beliefs represented in Western culture, Christmas still stands a monolithic tree whose branches reach wide in the culture. We've built an entire consumer mindset as well as a strong dose of nostalgia from this festive season of giving, having transgressed a two-thousand millennia wide boundary water from the banks of Bethlehem's stable. For many, Christmas - or "the holidays" - is a wonderfully warm cup of cocoa that soothes the frozen tundra of our aching souls.

Under the spreading branches and delicious fruits of this Western Christmas experience (though it's not fun for all - many have painful memories at this season when they long for family members who have passed or grieve an inability to give presents to children), the roots of this season, however, can be unmistakably traced to nothing less than the history-altering Advent of the God-child upon planet earth. God made himself nothing and bore our pain so that we might wear the crown of his joy. You can't make up a script like that!

Advent is a focused time for believers in Christ to remember his first coming and wait longingly for his second coming. I feel the ache this year as much as ever.

How long, O Lord? How long will I wrestle with a body and mind which don't often agree with my heart and soul? How long will the poor suffer? How long will your earth be bludgeoned by capitalism? How long will your name be dishonored? How long will division, hatred, persecution and warfare continue to leak seemingly unchecked? How long will mothers and children have to flee their homes with empty bellies?

So, as it turns out, this isn't always the most wonderful time of the year. When I read about the catastrophic conditions in northern Nigeria or about Syrian refugees or bombings in Pakistan or the marginalization of the vulnerable in our own land or even as I feel the pain of relational division right in front of me or the apathy that sneaks up on me, I cry out with the beloved Christmas hymn: "In His name, all oppression shall cease"...but how long, O Lord?

Even still, hope is alive and well. Joy marches triumphantly. The kingdom of light advances. A new and glorious morn has dawned.

So, this Christmas season I invite you to hear another invitation. In addition to the RSVPs for holiday work parties, Christmas cookie baking parties and Christmas eve dinner parties, consider sending an RSVP for the grand Advent banquet when Christ comes to make permanent his good reign upon the earth and permanently make good upon his proclamation of good news for the poor. And join in the song of creation to welcome his coming and participate with him in praying for his kingdom to come upon this earth.

Here are some Scriptural meditations which can fill you with longing for Christ and his good-news-kingdom this Advent season:

Psalm 146:5-10(ESV)

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Isaiah 35(ESV)

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
    the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
    and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
    the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
    the majesty of our God.
Strengthen the weak hands,
    and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who have an anxious heart,
    “Be strong; fear not!
Behold, your God
    will come with vengeance,
with the recompense of God.
    He will come and save you.
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
    and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
For waters break forth in the wilderness,
    and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
    and the thirsty ground springs of water;
in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down,
    the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
And a highway shall be there,
    and it shall be called the Way of Holiness;
the unclean shall not pass over it.
    It shall belong to those who walk on the way;
    even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
No lion shall be there,
    nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
    but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Luke 1:46-55(ESV)

And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Revelation 22:12-17 (ESV) 

“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.


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