This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living. Because we belong to the day, we must live decent lives for all to see. Don’t participate in the darkness of wild parties and drunkenness, or in sexual promiscuity and immoral living, or in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. And don’t let yourself think about ways to indulge your evil desires.
Do you remember New Year’s 2000? I sort of do. I’m not one for New Year’s Eve parties. In fact, I would rather go to bed before midnight and wake up in a new year. But this was the arrival of a new millennium! The entire earth was celebrating this historic moment in space and time across the globe, and I was all alone.
All of my plans had fallen through, so I sat by myself at home watching the news show fireworks and celebrations as the clock struck midnight across each time zone, from the Great Pyramids at Giza to the Statue of Liberty.
When the new millennium arrived for me in Dallas, I drank champagne alone. Instead of celebration, it was isolation. More than a new year, it was a new era, and I was starting out disoriented.
Like many of us, I look to New Year’s as a time to start over, because “this year is going to be better.” But when we try to do it all in one day—in the midst of a frantic holiday season—we wake up still lost and disoriented, having given up on our resolutions by the end of the week.
Instead of a single day, we need a season. We need Advent.
We need Advent because it takes time for reorientation: to prepare, to repent, and to wake up to all that Christmas morning aspires to be. Advent is not a season to get lost in earthly celebration, but to be found in what God has done, is doing, and will do through Jesus Christ in a disoriented world.
Advent is New Year’s for the church: the first season in the Christian calendar. Advent means “the arrival of a notable person, thing, or event.” For Christians, it marks the celebration of the arrival of Jesus Christ, but not in the ways we often think of in the midst of mistletoe and holly.
In the Christian calendar, the end is the beginning. Before we celebrate Jesus’ silent-night first arrival in the manger, we prepare for his trumpet-blasting second coming in the clouds. He will come back and bring history to a close, and we don’t need to be afraid. Because as we’ll see this season, his return is a good thing.
The earth has completed another trek around the sun, finishing its four seasons and preparing to make another orbit. Where will we find ourselves this year? Advent is an alternate to New Year’s as an opportunity to let the church’s seasons, not the world’s, set the orbit for our lives.
Christ was born. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again!
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