The Heart of Advent

And so we find ourselves invited into another season of Advent. 

Of waiting. 

Of quiet.

Of obedience. 

For so many of us, those are perhaps not our favorite words. We like the exciting ones: mission, evangelism, worship, adoration. But the heart of Advent — the true meaning of Christmas, if you will — is in the quiet and the dark, where the light can shine the brightest. The heart of the gospel is found beating away in a manger, our king born quietly in stable, the whole world order completely upturned. As Thomas Merton said, “Into this world, this demented inn, in which there is absolutely no room for Him at all, Christ has come uninvited.” And though we did not invite him, Jesus invites us to join him in his work, both during Advent and throughout the year.

Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt writes, “It is Advent again. We call this time Advent because it reminds us of what comes from God for the creation of his kingdom on earth. We who are here have been led in a special way to keep what is coming on in our hearts and to shape ourselves according to it. That which comes from God — that is what moves our hearts, not only in these days but at all times. … 

“This is what it means to prepare for Advent. Jesus says, ‘Be ready for action, and have your lamps lit; be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet…blessed is the slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives’ (Luke 12:35-48). Here Jesus is speaking of his disciples and their preparation for his coming. Take note that God’s kingdom is not formed by any human discovery or intention, however daring and noble, but by the coming of Christ. Our faith, our ardor, must be for this coming. Otherwise it would be better to put aside our meditations on Advent. The reign of God is a marvelous thing. To worldly wisdom God’s kingdom seems like foolishness, and yet it gives shape to the whole world, the whole creation, making it God’s eternal coming.”

Advent, then, becomes not a festive holiday season but a daily ongoing preparation for the work of inviting the Holy Spirit into our lives and making room for Christ to do a good work in us. Though Christ’s work is finished, we his children are still very much works in progress. And while something in us yearns for the grand gestures and mighty miracles, it is the quiet daily work that we are most often called to: tending to our families, caring for neighbors and those in need in our communities, seeking the good of our neighborhoods. Jesus called his disciples into a life much different than the one they expected; so too he calls us into his mission in his own divinely planned way. And we find, just as his disciples did, that his way is always the best way. The blessing is found in the obedience.

Blumhardt goes on, “The work for God goes on quite simply in this way; one does not always have to wait for something out of the ordinary. The all-important thing is to keep your eyes on what comes from God and to make way for it to come into being here on the earth. If you always try to be heavenly and spiritually minded, you won’t understand the everyday work God has for you to do. But if you embrace what is to come from God, if you live for Christ’s coming in practical life, you will learn that divine things can be experienced here and now, things quite different from what our human brains can ever imagine.”

This year, may your Advent be filled with expectant waiting, reverent quiet, and joyful obedience.

Written By: Jess Glass

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