Today is the first Sunday of Advent*. As regular readers know, this is a time of year when I feel particularly disconnected from modern culture. The onslaught of “Christmas” that surrounds us in our culture tends to make me cranky rather than festive. Blogging my way through a few Advents has been helpful- at least for me. (If you type in “Advent” in this blog’s search box you will find Advent posts from past years.) As a result of this sometimes cranky blogging I have come to accept (I hope) my discomfort with the clash of secular and sacred. Advent is a several week reminder that Christians are often supposed to be uncomfortable in this world. If there is no uneasiness as sacred and secular rub shoulders I, at least, am in trouble. So I try to not get too frustrated, enjoy the secular festivities for the fun they are and also keep myself grounded in the season of Advent.
Often in churches the four Sundays of Advent are given the themes of peace, joy, love, and hope. And not without good reason. But sometimes we neglect to think about why these four themes are important or why we might focus on them at this particular time of year. What makes us claim these four ideas?
I think, perhaps, it is because we so often live in the opposite condition. Instead of peace- discord. Instead of joy- sorrow. Instead of love- hate. Instead of hope- despair. And I think we can find these ideas held together in the gospel stories of Jesus’ birth. For the next three weeks, I want to explore this idea with you and we will do it by looking at particular aspects of the nativity stories . First angels. Who or what are they? What is a heavenly host? And why are people “sore afraid”? Next we’ll look at some of the songs. Why are these people singing and what are they singing about? Finally we’ll think about power, who has it and what they do with it.
I don’t mean this to be gloomy, in fact just the opposite. My hope is by the time Christmas comes we will have a sense of why we need the Prince of Peace. And that we will be very glad to welcome him.