As I'm writing this, we are just a month away from the beginning of Advent. It won’t be long before we’ll be seeing Christmas greenery on our neighbors’ doors, holiday commercials and movies on television, and Christmas cards in our mailboxes. Are you ready? Neither am I! But it will be here, just the same. One of the challenges we face as people of Christian faith is keeping our focus in the right place during the Advent season. The word “advent” connotes the coming of something important. In the case of our Christian Advent season, we are anticipating the arrival of God incarnated – God, made flesh – in the person of a tiny baby whose name was Jesus. Rather than a time of pre-celebration of Christmas, Advent is meant to be a time of waiting and preparation. Our Orthodox brothers and sisters even undertake a “nativity fast” during Advent, abstaining from much of the food and drink that we take for granted as part of our celebrations leading up to Christmas Day.
Years ago, I heard a story about a little boy who is now a young man. This boy had learned from someone at church that because Advent is a time of waiting and preparation, the baby Jesus should not be placed in the family’s creche or nativity scene until Christmas Day. So, he went home and took the baby Jesus out of his family’s manger scene and hid it. He hid it so well that no one could find it, and he refused to divulge its location until Christmas morning, when he returned the baby Jesus to his place in the manger. I can’t think about “looking for Jesus” or “seeking Jesus” without remembering this story, which always makes me smile. Sometimes it is the youngest among us who actually “gets” what the Advent season is all about.
During worship in the month of November, we’ll be looking at three gospel stories about people who wanted to see, touch or know Jesus. The first is from Luke’s gospel; the story of Zacchaeus, a tax collector despised by his peers but loved and called into repentance by Jesus. The second is Mark’s telling of the woman who sought merely to touch the garment of Jesus to receive healing, but who was called out and recognized and blessed by Jesus. The third story is from John’s gospel, about a Pharisee who comes under cover of darkness to have a conversation with Jesus. Then on the last Sunday in November, which is Christ the King Sunday, we’ll look at a parable of Jesus from Matthew’s gospel often referred to as “the judgment of the nations,” in which Jesus makes clear what it really means to love and serve him.
It’s my hope that as we consider these stories of real people who sought and encountered the Jesus who walked among them as God-made-flesh, our hearts will be made more ready for the season of waiting called Advent.
With prayers for your journey,