Advent Awareness in the USA
Tiny candle, tremendous light.
An infant arrived, a world altered.
Like so many Christ-followers during Advent, I have had time to reflect on the anticipation and wonder of the coming of the Christ.
We have been lighting the Advent Candles at Fellowship Covenant Church where I serve as interim pastor. Each candle represents the marvel of the character and mission of the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world.
Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. The Christ.
None of these treasures can be purchased, even at Macy's. These things are not acquired by MasterCard and Visa. No credit works.
How many feel hopeless trying to satisfy all the family by buying the things on their gift-list? All that worry involved in creating "holiday cheer." Most hope for early January when the whole mess is over...until they start putting up Christmas decorations next 4th of July!
Where's the love? Fist fights break out in long lines at the stores as customers vie for the "unbelievable sale price." The mantra: "Gotta get my X-box." Police patrol about Christmas shoppers. "Every 'kiss' begins with Kay." Love is a piece of high-priced, pressurized coal. Or, love is the new sexy bra from Victoria's Secret. Yep, love = sex.
Joy. We wish. According to those who know things, this is the most depressing time of the year for many people. Fantasized family happiness when many families are deeply fractured adds incredible gloom to people. "I just can't 'play the game' one more time." Joy comes in a bottle of Jack Daniels as idiotic commercials show husbands' buying sports cars(!) for their wives. "You gotta be kidding." Meanwhile joy is happening on Madison Avenue as merchants see money coming from people's pockets into their cash registers and credit card companies gear up for those 18-21% interest rate "great deals...don't pay until January 2009."
Peace. A pipe dream word. "Peace in the Middle East." Peace in Iraq, in Iran, in North Korea, in American politics, in churches were "emergent" is a curse word. There will be no peace as long as the world runs on money and guns. You don't create peace with a doctrinal statement or a "biblical" view (which usually means "my" view) of the church.
So, we light little candles and long for Jesus to come. The Christ candle. The baby born to those walking with wishes and calling them "hope." To those who violate the old Beatles' song "can't buy me love." To those who with dread or even mild panic sing "Joy to the World." To those who react to the word "peace" as just another empty political cliche.
You may think: John, you sound pessimistic. It's Christmas after all. I know. I have a friend who recently spoke in a Christian college chapel on "Why I Hate Christmas," not on "Why I Hate Christ." Showing Mary's after-birth among sheep dung doesn't sell well on Christmas cards. "The Slaughter of the Innocents" just doesn't push the merchandise. What have we done to the real Christmas, to the words Hope, Love, Joy and Peace that came packaged in human flesh and crying in a feeding trough? Apparently to our sorrow and dismay, we thought we could buy and sell these weighty deliverance words wrapped in colorful paper and tied with a bow.
A child shall lead them...out.
O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel, and ransom captive...USA.