These were the best of times, these were the worst of times.
The Christmas season is chock full of feelings: peace, want, greed, rest, love, desire, passion, joy, celebration, excitement, disappointment...hope. As Irene Cara is singing right now on Music Choice, "What a feeling!"
But what's it really all about? Growing up in a non-liturgical tradition, I never knew much about the Christian calendar in general, and Advent in particular. But as an adult the rhythm of the Christian calendar has become an invaluable tool to pull me into more intentional relationship with God.
Advent means "coming". The One who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" emptied himself into human flesh, baby human flesh at that. He grew up, lived, died, and came back to life, all to redeem you and me, all to display the love and glory of God.
Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent, the week of promise. I've always been amazed at Gabriel's inability to keep a secret. It was Gabriel who came to Daniel and announced a coming messiah. As a kid I wondered if he got in trouble for letting the cat out of the bag 400 years too early. Then there were whispers in the ears of the prophets, especially Isaiah (see chapters 7 and 9).
And then it was Gabe who got to meet Zechariah and Elizabeth, and tell them about their soon to be born son John. The forerunner of the messiah. The archangel then headed to the little town of Nazareth, to a young unmarried girl named Mary, and spilled out the whole story. And I'm sure Gabriel was included in the millions of angels who showed the shepherds where to find this newborn child.
What does the word "promise" mean to you? We live in a day where people don't always keep their word. Vows don't mean anything anymore. Contracts can be broken. Our word is no longer our bond. Promises have to be enforced by the courts. Then many church-going people "claim the promises of God" for their lives (while there are some great promises from God, most of the people who use this phrase claim some stuff that IMHO God never promised, but it's what they want so they claim it...but that's another post for another time). Promises--real ones, ones we believe in--change our lives. They change our feelings and our behaviors (just think of when you promise your kids something that they really want). They help put hope in our souls.
Ultimately Advent is about 2 promises, one fulfilled, one yet to come. The messiah did come (1st promise) and he will come again (2nd promise). He interjected redemption once, he will come again and set the whole thing right. He is coming.