Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from our friend Johnny Markin. You can follow Johnny on Twitter at @JohnnyMarkin. Many thanks to Johnny for sharing this perspective on worship with us!
For many of us in Evangelical churches, the historic celebration of the season of Advent is not even on our radar. We have productions throughout December, sing some carols near the 25th, and maybe organize a carol-sing in the community. But a few years ago, our church began to explore the four weekends of Advent that precede Christmas Day as an intentional way of bringing back into focus the reason for our celebrations in December.
As a family, it started as an excuse for a chocolate-laden countdown the the Big Day. But then we began seeking out daily readings we could do in our morning devotional time.
To my surprise, year over year I have sensed that the more important part of the season is not in the build up of waiting to open gifts on Christmas, or even having the big Turkey/Ham/Whatever feast with family (which for many, sadly, is a chore in the first place). Instead, the weekly themes of HOPE, PREPARATION, JOY, and LOVE that lead us up to the big day have a somewhat ‘reverse magnetic effect’ to the pull of our ‘cultural’ Christmas. You know, the consumeristic frenzy that overtakes our TV screens, radio stations, and shopping malls as they lure us into making sure we make Christmas great by finding the ‘perfect gift’. That is the formative power of daily worship to shape our way of thinking.
You see, Advent is not only about Christ’s incarnation, but the great hope of his ultimate Second Coming! It is a four week narrative that assures us that a Deliverer was prophesied of old, that He came – but that God is NOT DONE YET! As sure as Christ was raised physically from the grave, Scripture assures us that He will come again as Acts 1:10-11, and so many other New Testament passages promise.
When he does, we see the joy that is ultimately to come for every believer who sets their hope on that great coming event! Revelation 21 says this:
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”*
This is true HOPE. It begs our PREPARATION – that every heart would prepare Him room. And it is good news of great JOY, destined to come to ultimate fruition because of His undying LOVE for us (John 3:16).
So ‘lean in’ to Advent this year. Find a devotional online or at a bookshop, and purposefully try to let the words of scripture shape your way of thinking in the time leading up to Christmas. Make it an act of worship that pulls you back into the focus of God’s great plan for His Creation. And have a very MERRY CHRISTMAS – for we know… THAT HE IS COMING!
* The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Re 21:3–5.