Monday with Michael Spencer
The Mood of Advent
I have several friends who are doing Advent in their Baptist churches for the first time, and they have lots of questions about candles and logistics. I wish there were more questions about Advent itself.
For example, the mood of Advent is dark and serious. It’s not the mood of Lent, which is a particular kind of seriousness as the shadow of the cross extends over our path. It’s the mood of darkness that comes because the world is in darkness.
We need a savior.
This is the time that we stop and see that the powers of evil are entrenched in the world. Evil authorities and and evil persons are having their way. A good creation is being ruined. Hearts made for love and light are imprisoned, crying out and empty.
There is war, terror, the loss of innocence and the curses of ignorance, poverty and death. The wise men of this age are propagating nonsense. Men and women made in God’s image are addicted to the worst the darkness has to offer. They think backwards and cannot find their way out of the dungeon. They have lost their will to live and love, and have settled for the cheapest and palest of imitations.
Advent’s darkness includes the failure of religion to bring any light to this fallen and dying world. Religion has become as empty as fool’s errand as can be imagined. The religious take themselves seriously, but the world hears the hollowness of it all.
In the Christian family itself, the prosperity gospel makes a mockery of the very savior it claims to proclaim. Western Christians plunge into the pagan celebration, spending thousands on themselves and their children. We spend enough on our lights to save thousands upon thousands of lives. But those lives are in the darkness of Advent’s waiting. Our “lights” are nothing more than an extension of that darkness. They have nothing to do with the true light that comes to the world.
The real center of Advent’s dark mood is that we need a savior. We who sing and go to church for musicals and eat too much and buy too much and justify the season by our strange measurements of suffering.
We light candles and wait because, after looking around and taking stock, there should be no doubt that we need a savior.
Ironically, after 2,000 years of offering our Savior to others, we- Christians- need one more than ever. When we mark ourselves has “having” Christ more than “needing” Christ, we miss the Spirit of the Advent season.
Despite the fact that the world needs a savior, those offering him and his story to the world look no more “saved” than anyone else. In fact, with an extra facade of religion or two, we seem to be in every bit as bad a shape as the world we call “lost.”
The mood of Advent is that we are all lost. Advent isn’t about the “saved” telling the “lost” to “get saved.” Advent is a light that dawns in all of our darknesses. Advent is bread for all of our hungers. Advent is the promise kept for all of us promise-breakers, betrayers and failures.
Can we find a way to celebrate Advent as those who NEED to be saved? As those who NEED a savior? Not as those who know for certain that someone else does?
Scripture says that we who had not received mercy have now received mercy. Those who were nobodies are now the people of God.
The key to Advent is not living as if we are the people of God and always have been. The key is to live as if we need a Savior, and he has come to us, found us, saved us and is there for everyone in the world.
The mood of Advent isn’t “come be religious like us.” It is “We are all waiting for our Savior to be born. Let us wait together. And when he comes, let us recognize him, together.”
When the day dawns, let us all receive him. We go to the manger and worship. We give to him our gifts. We take his light to the poor.
Until then, we are the poor, the weak, the blind, the lonely, the guilty and the desperate. We light candles because we who are in darkness are in need of a great light. We need a savior.
So we wait amidst the ruins, we protect the lights we hold in hope. We sing to one who is coming. We look and wonder. We pray for his star to take us, once again, to the miracle.
Originally posted December 2007
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Photo by Sippanont Samchai at Flickr. Creative Commons License