Between Organ Bench and Pulpit
Pastor Greg Shook
Why bother about Advent? I mean, really. Long before Halloween, Christmas was evident at local merchants’. It seems each year the countdown begins earlier and earlier. What was the topic of discussion around your Thanksgiving table? Remembering and being thankful for blessings of the year or making plans for Christmas and planning the Black Friday events? So . . . why bother at all about Advent?
I grew up in a faith community where we went from Thanksgiving to Christmas. I learned about Advent from the Lutherans. Actually, it was during my early organ study with Dr. Clair Johannsen that I heard about this season of Advent and how it was a time of waiting and watching and how important it was for us to have this time. When he first explained it to me, he said something like, “Advent is a time of preparing. It prepares you for something (exam, recital, et cetera), and, as you prepare, you watch, and wait. This is the season where we prepare our hearts to make room for Christ in our lives.” This is why we bother.
Advent comes to life in the readings of prophecy and in the accounting of events leading up to the “Main Event.” It gives us a time to ponder and to put our minds and hearts in check to receive this marvelous gift from God. Since about the mid 11th century, Christians have spoken of the “three comings of Christ: in the flesh in Bethlehem, in our hearts daily, and in glory at the end of time.” The most profound reading of the Advent season for me is the Magnificat (Song of Mary; Luke 1:46-55). This reading is a not-so-subtle reminder that great things can, and do, come from the least likely of places. It’s great testament that the possible really can be birthed from the improbable or impossible.
“The Kingdom’s Ours Forever,” the recent Reformation 500 Hymn Festival that was led by Dr. Wayne Wold, took us through the liturgical year, starting with Advent. Wayne compiled this summation of Advent that was read at the festival:
Luther and his circle of reformers put great emphasis on having the people to sing at worship and to sing texts and tunes that were theologically and musically sound. Published in 1524, “Savior of the Nations, Come,” is one of the earliest Lutheran hymns, but its origins go even farther back in history. Luther valued greatly the musical traditions of the Church, and many of the earliest Lutheran hymns were adaptations of traditional chants. Luther crafted a German language version of the Latin text and even borrowed the chant melody and made it into a rhythmic version so the people could more easily sing it together—which we are doing still, 500 years later.
Take some time; ponder, reflect, watch, prepare, and wait . . . with patience and anticipation! “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Let us pray. Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come. With your abundant grace and might, free us from the sin that would obstruct our perception of your mercy, that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world; for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Soli Deo Gloria! —Pastor Greg