Sat04192014

Spiritual Life

Advent prepares the way - and us - for the joy of Christmas

In the church calendar, the Christmas season doesn’t begin until the evening of Dec. 24.

The four Sundays before Christmas are known as Advent. The color for this season is now commonly blue, though for many years it was purple. The fact that the color for Advent is blue isn’t the only reason I love this season, but it helps.

Advent is the season of anticipation: It is the aroma of bread baking, the first glimpse of brilliant green in early spring, the promise of fresh summer tomatoes or sugar snap peas almost ready to harvest.

Advent is the season of anticipation: It is the hunger that waits for the hot chocolate to be ready on a cold winter’s day or that revels in the aroma of the pizza parlor anticipating the feast to come.

Advent is the season of anticipation: It is the season of waiting and watching; but, like a child knowing that Christmas will come, this season does not hope something good might come – it knows.

Christ will come. Grace will happen. In the language of the prophets, the banquet table is set even now. The ravines in the wilderness are being filled in and the road made level. The desert sands are turning to springs. The weak knees are strengthened. The hearts of the fathers are being turned to the children.

There is an unstoppable character to the kingdom of God just as there is an unstoppable character to the turn of the seasons. The Spirit of God cannot be quenched. The mercy of God will not be denied. The healing power of an eternal love cannot fail. As John writes in the opening of his Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

Advent is the season of anticipation.

I’m not talking about the holidays. Those are fun, too – or they can be fun. They can also be hard: times of loneliness, remembered grief, broken family.

The girls’ mother would arrive to pick them up at 3 p.m. Christmas Day – after the hectic and delightful activities at church on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and a hurried opening of Christmas presents, suddenly the house was achingly empty.

But Advent is not about the holidays; it is about the Christ who comes.

The Christ who comes and all heaven sings. The Christ who comes to grace a stable and a peasant mother. The Christ who comes and sleeps amid the ox and the ass. The Christ who comes to Simeon and Anna, the answer to a life of yearning. The Christ who comes to be greeted by those Wise Men who watch for the word of God written in the sky.

The Christ who comes to lay hands upon the sick. The Christ who comes to welcome the outcast. The Christ who comes to touch the world with grace and life. The Christ who comes to the woman at the well and the man born blind, who blesses the children and shares bread with Judas.

The Christ who comes to cleanse the temple and the human heart. The Christ who comes in the desolation of the cross.

Advent is about the Christ who comes: The Christ who comes forth from the tomb. The Christ who comes to Mary in the garden, to the Twelve through locked doors. The Christ who comes to unbelieving Thomas. The Christ who comes to lavish his spirit upon his followers.

Advent is about the Christ who comes: The Christ who comes with each morning sunrise. The Christ who comes with brilliant fall color. The Christ who comes in the crunch of new snow.

The Christ who comes with the goodnight kiss of a parent on a child’s forehead. The Christ who comes in the joy of the wedding chamber. The Christ who comes in random acts of kindness.

The Christ who comes in water and word and bread and wine and hymn and sharing of peace. The Christ who comes to walk in our midst, like the cross coming down the aisle.

The Christ who comes and makes wars to cease. The Christ who comes to renew the earth.

Advent is a season of anticipation. It is joy that cannot be quelled by any of life’s sorrows. It is the joy of the psalm writer who exclaims, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” It is the joy of the angel Gabriel announcing Jesus’ birth, “Hail Mary, full of Grace, the lord is with thee.” It is the joy of Mary that bursts forth in song, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”

And it is the joy of the angelic host whose song cannot be contained when Jesus’ birth is announced to shepherds, “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

The Rev. David K. Bonde is pastor of Los Altos Lutheran Church, 460 S. El Monte Ave. For more information, call 948-3012 or visit www.losaltoslutheran.org.

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