By David Hegg
I’ve always loved this particular weekend in November. We’ve just come off our Thanksgiving celebration and reminded ourselves that, even in this most unsettled year, we are a blessed people. And though you may be getting quite tired of reheated turkey and sweet potatoes, there still remains the warmth of family and friends, and the prospect of better days ahead.
For me, Thanksgiving is the launching pad that lifts me off into the Advent season with a heart of joy and a mind set on making the most of my favorite time of year. And this year, more than ever before in my memory, we need what Christmas is, what Christmas means, and what only Christmas can bring.
In the liturgical books “Advent” translates the Latin for “coming” and it signals the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day as a season of reflection, praise, and celebration of the coming of the Savior who is long awaited, and desperately needed.
“Advent” reminds us that God has come, leaving glory to join us in this broken world. Advent is celebrated around the world, by almost every culture, in almost every language because every year about this time humanity desperately wants to know we’re not alone. We’ve not been left to figure things out all by ourselves. By now we’ve realized we’re not as smart as we think we are, not as good as we say we are, and certainly not strong enough to endure the complexities of this life without divine help.
Advent reminds us that help has come, and further, that we need it. Even though modern humanity has attempted to deconstruct any notion of the spiritual and supernatural, it is abundantly clear that we are not merely a complex mass of purely material pieces. We intrinsically understand that we have an immaterial existence as well. We are spiritual beings, with things like consciousness and emotions and spiritual longings that cannot be accounted for by purely material chemical processes. And it is this lingering realization that turns our hearts in anticipation to the possibility that, despite all of our learning, expertise, and experience, we find it impossible to live lives of purpose and meaning on a mere physical plane.
And so, the Advent season comes reminding us that the story of shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem continues to play an essential role in the human story. As the angelic choir announced the birth of the promised Savior, so also the four weeks of Advent put us all out in the fields. We are out doing what we do, living as we live, crying and trying to live each day even as the darkness seems pervasive. And then, the light of Christmas begins to creep over the horizon, and the carols of joy and peace, written and sung for centuries, start to fill our ears with melody and our hearts with hope.
And what are we to do? It’s simple. Follow the shepherds. Hear the songs, and see the lights, and in your heart and mind, start walking toward the stable with great anticipation to once again, or for the first time, recognize the gift of God that is the Christ of Christmas.
As we start the Christmas season let’s covenant together not to let all the devastation of the past year turn us into Scrooge. Let’s not allow the Grinch of COVID to steal our Christmas. And most of all, let’s acknowledge that what we desperately need is not the commercialization of the season that has always left us emotionally fatigued and spiritually empty. Yes, buy some presents, string some lights, and by all means make the Rocky Road fudge. But … this year be intentional about renewing your spiritual health by recognizing and adoring the Baby who, as the angels sang is “the Savior who is Christ the Lord.”
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.