The advent of our God,
Shall be our theme for prayer;
Come, let us meet him on the road,
And place for him prepare.
The season of Advent is a lesson in contrasts - promise and fulfillment, repentance and rejoicing, waiting and celebration.
In the observance of both Advent and Christmas the church and the world are pitted against each other. The world ignores Advent and totally misses the true reason for celebrating Christmas. During Advent, while the church is quietly waiting and praying, the world is celebrating. And while the church celebrates Christmas (Dec. 24-Jan.6), the world is already thinking of other things, like New Year’s gatherings and bowl games.
A Christian belongs to both worlds - sacred and secular. In this conflict, should we follow the world or the church, or both? Pastor Dan Kolander offers these thoughts:
“For the most part, Christians are disturbed and distressed about the commercialization of Christmas. The business bonanza during Advent has made Christmas a sellabration rather than a celebration. The world’s use of Advent with its crazy pace of shopping and parties leaves people physically and emotionally exhausted when Christmas day arrives. This sellabration of Christmas gives people the false impression that a good Christmas depends on the number and value of gifts received. The spiritual significance of Christmas is lost.”
So what can we do about it? Perhaps in this regard, the church is on to something. We can use these days before Christmas as they were originally intended - as a time of preparation. This preparation can happen in at least two major ways. One is preparation by repentance. As the Christmas carol says, “Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.” Unless God removes all that keeps us from hearing the good news, there will be no room in the inn for Christ to be born unto us. Or better said, we will miss the “good news of great joy”.
Second, when we focus on the Christ of Christmas we will be filled with hope. Instead of the Christmas shopping blues, the burdens and stress of overdoing, and the emptiness of the world’s idols, Christians have reason to look at life differently. We can look forward to Christ’s coming with joyful anticipation and excitement. And we can join our voices in worship and in singing the praises of Immanuel, God with us.
Oh, come, blest Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by your advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel shall come to you, O Israel.