Advent Conspiracy: Worship Fully. Spend Less. Give More. Love all.
AC Week 4/Christmas: Love All
In the first chapter of her book Advent: The Season of Hope (Fullness of Time), author and Anglican Priest Tish Harrison Warren writes “Advent collapses time. The past, present, and future join together in a single season of waiting for Immanuel, God With Us.”
She goes on to explain the Biblical concept of kairos, or “the fullness of time. This is the time of eternity. Kairos time marks the “watershed moments in human history and in our lives–moments that feel outside of time.”
Advent, she continues, takes place in linear (or chronos) time, but it also steps into kairos. In doing so, Warren suggests, Advent “teaches us to enter into chronos as a different kind of people.”
In other words, Advent changes us.
I am writing this on the Wednesday before Christmas, and I can feel the internal drumbeat of the various deadlines of the holiday closing in around me. Those who know me best know I struggle, at the best of times, to keep the chaos in my life to a minimum. There just always seems to be something—a work deadline, a creative project, a messy office—which I perceive as being suspended above me like some sort of sword of Damocles, waiting to crash down upon me and overturn my life. In decades past, I often saw Christmas and the weeks leading up to it in the same way.
Advent, far from being a time I chose to set aside to prepare the way for Jesus’s coming into the world and into my heart, was an emotional demolition derby guaranteed to end with disappointment and self-condemnation. I regularly made the goal of Christmas to make everyone happy throughout my entire extended family by way of intriguing, expensive, and/or exotic gifts. Not only did that tactic always fail, but it also ended up creating more tension between me and those I love (the very opposite of what I had hoped for).
In recent years, however, I’ve been learning to take my eyes off of Christmas and put them on Advent. Before I go any further, please understand I’m by no means claiming to have it all figured out. But by engaging in Advent as a season and each of its days as generally equal in importance, I’ve been able to reduce the pressure that comes with the arrival of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and the family gatherings they bring).
Warren writes that “Advent celebrates and holds together all three ‘comings’ of Christ.” Those are 1) the Incarnation (the birth of Jesus into the world), 2) the coming of Jesus in glory in the “last days,” and 3) the coming of Jesus in the holiness of the present moment (through “the Holy Spirit’s work and through Word and sacrament” in our individual and corporate experiences). In Advent, we celebrate all three of these equally as each reinforces the reality of the other two.
This week is not only the fourth week of Advent but also the final week of our Advent Conspiracy study lessons. On Sunday (Christmas Eve!) Pastor Tassie Green will teach us about the final of the four tenets of the Advent Conspiracy: Love All.
It is easy to get overwhelmed with the thought of loving everyone and trying to carry the weight of loving the entire world and all that means. Fortunately, this call to “love all” is eminently practical. It’s the call to love our neighbor as ourselves (which means we should give ourselves love, too). When the love I am meant to give is no longer based on my own (impossible) perfection, but rather on the steady advancing of God’s kingdom in my life by the miracle of grace, loving my neighbors is lived out moment by moment, in bite-sized bits. I don’t always get it right, but by the same respect neither does a single slip up mean all is lost.
I am looking forward to both the 9:30 a.m. worship service and the 10 p.m. candlelight service on Christmas Eve this Sunday. Our morning service will include a journey on “The Road to Bethlehem” and, as Pastor Tassie likes to describe it, a “scratch and sniff worship experience” with lots of Christmas Carols and family fun. At night, we will experience the coming of the Light of Christ into our world as we welcome Jesus into our hearts, whether for the first time for some of us, or as an extension of a lifetime of faith.
I’m looking forward to seeing you all there!
May the presence of God bless each of us this Christmas,
FPCE director of communications
It’s never too late to join the Advent Conspiracy (AC)!
Over the last decade, thousands of churches have celebrated by seeking more relational traditions, partnering with more faith-based aid organizations, and channeling more resources to the poor, marginalized, and forgotten.
Advent Conspiracy is about the entire body of Christ at work in the world. As we worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all, something begins to happen that is greater than any single person, church, or denomination. God is not finished with our world and is inviting us deeper into the Christmas story.