The Work of the People

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Celebrate the Coming King

11/22/2013

Celebrate the Coming King

Waiting.  It’s not something we’re very good at. Whether it’s waiting for our name to be called at the doctor’s office, waiting for news that doesn’t come fast enough, or waiting for our next vacation, we hate waiting.  Our dislike of waiting is evident when you look at Facebook status and tweets from annoyed people who feel that their time as been wasted while waiting, when we see the amount of debt Americans have because they can’t wait to buy the next iPhone or newest model of their favorite car, or when you consider our inability to stick with something when we run into obstacles.  Waiting is hard. We don’t like it and we aren’t very good at it.  We want it all, and we want it right now.

Each year the church calendar begins with the season of Advent.  It is a season that reminds us time and again that as Christians we are a people who are waiting.  When Jesus ascended to the Father, he promised that he would return one day and Christians have been watching the Eastern sky ever since.   The New Testament epistles are filled with exhortations and admonitions to hold loosely to the things that define us in this life, to keep watch, to be prepared in our hearts and minds for the day that Jesus will return.  Many in the early church took this seriously with communities of people refusing to take jobs, to marry, care for themselves because they believed that the Messiah would return and soon.

As time has passed we have, understandably, become passive waiters.  We think that the idea of the Messiah returning is nice.  Sure, we would like it, but it’s not something that we spend all that much time thinking about.  After all, it hasn’t happened yet. But Advent is the season that reminds us that God’s work is not finished.  Christians are people of the already (we have seen the promised coming of the Messiah) and the not yet (we await his final coming).  We look at the world around us and we see so much hurt: children who go to bed hungry, violence carried out against friend and enemy, natural disasters that destroy and kill, humans exploiting one another for personal gain and pleasure.  And we echo the words of the Psalmist, “How long oh Lord?” (Psalm 13). 

Advent is a time where we remember that our waiting is not in vain.  Instead, we purposefully wait in hopeful anticipation of what God will  do in Jesus Christ.  It is a reminder that our journey is not over, that this world and all of its brokenness does not have the final word, but we believe that when Christ does return, all things will be made new.  We look forward to the day when the words of Revelation 21 become a reality. “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away. ”And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” In the season of Advent, we proclaim our trust in this promise

If this is truly what we celebrate during the season of Advent, what does that look like in our services of worship?

  • Remember those old songs that remind us that Christ will come again?  (Some ideas: Soon and Very Soon, What a Day that Will be, Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending).  Pull them out, re-write them for today, sing them together to remind your people that we believe that Christ is coming again.
  • Don’t be afraid to call your people to wait and practice your waiting together.  When our world pulls out Christmas decorations the day after Halloween and radio stations play Christmas music non-stop beginning on Thanksgiving Day, the church thinks that we have to do that as well.  While it may be hard not to do any Christmas music during the weeks of Advent, try to avoid more traditional Christmas music and songs about the baby Jesus.  Allow your people to feel the sense of anticipation that we are truly waiting for Christ’s coming.
  • Take time in your services to read some of the biblical texts that speak of the coming of the Messiah.  Lectionary texts this year include readings from Isaiah, Matthew, James and Romans that foretell the coming of the Messiah both 2,000 years ago, and admonish their readers to be patient, waiting for the day when the Lord Jesus will come again.
  • Look for contemporary music that remind the congregation of the Advent themes  of hope, preparation and waiting.  Some that I have heard recently include Here I am to Worship, Mighty to Save, Everlasting God, Sing to the King, You Alone Can Rescue, All Who Are Thirsty.  All these songs remind us what God has done through Jesus Christ, and that one day, the work of Christ will be complete.

These are just a few of the things that you can do, and many of our churches are discovering how the season of Advent shapes our people as disciples. As we celebrate, we are being reminded of who we are as the people of God.  We are reminded of the story that we have inherited and the hope that we cling to: the best is yet to come. We remember that we are a people who celebrate Jesus Christ, who indeed came as a baby.  And, still, we wait with hopeful anticipation that he will one day come again in final victory.

-Rev. Heather Daugherty serves as the Director of the Center for Worship Arts at Trevecca Nazarene University.