Happy Christian New Year!
Ephesians 5:14 NIV
“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Happy New Year! It’s time to sow for a great awakening!
Happy New Year? “But wait,” you say, “it’s not January 1.” Right, but Christians have a different year. Our year begins with the first Sunday of Advent. We begin by lifting our sights to the far horizon of the last and final great awakening—the second coming of Jesus Christ. Advent is a season of great awakening. That’s what this new series is all about. It is an invitation to awaken the dawn of a new year and, in doing so, to awaken to the grace of God in Jesus Christ like we never imagined possible. This means a deeper attachment to God, to our true selves, our families, our church, and our neighbors in our towns and cities and away to the ends of the earth. After all, we don’t need more connections, we need deeper and more whole and holy attachments. The sun is rising, and the light is dawning on a new year and a new day. Might we begin by awakening the dawn of Advent?
When it comes to sunrise services, we think first of Easter morning, the dawn that brought the news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. I remember them as a child as unwelcome interruptions coming between hunting Easter eggs and eating chocolate Easter bunnies. But I remember them; they were unforgettable. Sitting or standing in some farmer’s dew-covered field just on the outskirts of town, surrounded by the local saints from the First United Methodist Church, belting out “Up from the Grave He Arose” in our best predawn voices, and hearing the news declared once again, “He is risen!” and meeting it with our annual response, “He is risen, indeed!”
We remember them. It’s funny how these peculiar activities of the people of God take acts of remembering ancient things and translate them into the indelible memories of our own time. It is as though something that happened thousands of years ago mysteriously happens again. Waking up early, showing up in pre-Sunday morning best, singing in a field . . . as a kid, you don’t exactly understand it at the time, yet you never forget it.
So why are we talking about Easter in Advent? For starters, it’s only because of Easter that we have Advent. It’s an obvious thing to say that there would be no Easter without Christmas. The corollary is less obvious, yet even more true: there would be no Christmas without Easter. If Jesus is not raised from the dead, there would be no point in having Christmas. A miraculous birth story of a Galilean peasant would fade into the sunset of history as a curious myth of no consequence.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead gives history its meaning, and it gives the future its deepest destiny. Because of the resurrection we remember the story of his first coming to us at Christmas. And, yes, because of the resurrection, we anticipate the story of his second coming at the end of the age and the great resurrection of the dead—and the life everlasting.
Come, thou long expected Jesus,
born to set thy people free;
from our fears and sins release us,
let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
hope of all the earth thou art;
dear desire of every nation,
joy of every longing heart.
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
How will this Advent be different for you?