Monday, December 01, 2008

Advent Rocks!

“I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

And so it begins.

Scarcely had the Thanksgiving leftovers been placed in the fridge than Christmas was underway. Truthfully, it didn’t take that long. The schmaltzy made for TV movies were being aired long before the weekend’s big games. You didn’t need to wait for malls to open Friday to start your Christmas shopping. The retailers have been ready for you for a while.

So now it’s December 1. It begins in earnest. And we all know where it’s going.

For the next twenty-five days we will alternately delight in and despise what we’re doing. There’s the music . . . the annoying 24 hour Christmas music format on many radio stations, as well as the much loved carols and hymns.

There are the repeated activities that make Christmas both meaningful and maddening. The ones we love we call traditions. The ones we simply tolerate we call routines.

And then there’s family: the joy that comes from being together . . . and the disappointment that comes from being together. The excitement of everyone gathering and the relief of everyone going home.

Right now, on December 1, you know where things are headed because you’ve been there before. You’ve done this before. You know what to expect. This doesn’t mean there’s anything lacking or wrong in the way you do Christmas. It simply means that what you’ll do in the coming weeks will very likely be just what you’ve done in years past.

Question: what would Christmas look like if you were to shake things up just a bit?

During the Advent season, the theme of the weekly worship gatherings, sermons, and the daily reflections will be “The Baby that Rocked the World.” Our premise is simple: Jesus’ birth shakes things up. The tectonic plates at the foundation of the universe shifted when this child came into the world.

There was a season in my life when I regularly rocked a baby. My little ones are too big for that now, but I can’t hear the soundtrack from Shadowlands or Rich Mullins’ Creed and Peace to You without remembering the days of rocking a child. The goal of that rocking was always sleep. If not the child’s, then sometimes my own.

But Jesus comes as a baby that rocks us – not into complacency, but into a full life. We will spend the coming weeks asking what kind of people we become because of Jesus’ birth. We’ll look at the fiery character of John the Baptist, the faithfulness of Simeon and Anna, the surprise and fear of Zechariah, the quiet strength of Mary. All of them examples of people whose world was rocked by the coming of Jesus.

What we’ll discover may surprise us. Your Christmas will not change all that much. You’ll have the same family members as you had last year, you’ll hear the same songs, you’ll sing the same carols, you’ll shop in the same stores, you’ll go to the same parties and send cards to the same friends.

Sure, you’ve been here before. Christmas may not be different . . . but perhaps you will be. After all, that’s really the point. That’s why Jesus came. To be in Christ is to be a new creation. What better time for that to happen than Advent.

Stir something in us, O God, and make us yearn for a different kind of Christmas. Come once again and make all things new. Begin with us. We ask for a Christmas that is different because we’ve been changed. We invite you to come and disturb our complacency, ignite our compassion, increase our joy. We ask these things in the name of Jesus, the baby that rocked the world. Amen.

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