From the President – Advent is my favorite season
Advent is my favorite season in the church year. By far.
Perhaps I should clarify that it’s the “new” Advent that I particularly adore. For a very long time, Advent was simply a “little Lent” — same colors, same themes, same mood. But within the last generation or so, Advent has come into its own.
The color change — from purple to blue — signals the shift in character, theme, and tone. Whereas the purple of Lent invites reflection on the surprising character of Jesus’ royalty revealed on the cross and our commensurate penitence for the sins for which he dies, the blue of Advent invites a sober, but also joyful, preparation for Christ’s arrival in human vesture in the infant Jesus. The color is that of the sky just before daybreak, as the dark of night blends toward the brightness of day. The mood therefore is anticipatory, a bit tensive even, as Advent is “on the way” but “not there yet.”
And Advent is about waiting. Not simply “holding back” until Christmas, but savoring the moments of anticipation before the feast so that our celebration may be all the richer and more meaningful. I appreciate Advent’s plea to slow down amid the rush of the season, to breathe in the joy, to exhale some of the pressure, and to tarry for a moment in anticipation and wonder of the Word made flesh. Advent bids us prepare in our hearts another manger that God in Jesus might dwell there once again as Emmanuel, God with us.
But what I love most about Advent is its emphasis on hope. The hope of the dawn of a new day, when God — who from the beginning of creation made manifest God’s love for us — enters into the human drama in a new way and signals a new possibility for relationship. Advent hope is rooted in God’s promise to come for us fully and really just as we are. God came in Christ, God continues to come in the proclamation of the Word and in our fellowship with each other, and God promises to come in the fullness of time to heal and redeem the whole of creation
Hope. It is what this world most needs. We can become so overwhelmed by dire headlines of wars and rumors of war, of famine and injustice, of strife and division. But amid all these realities, the call of Christian communities is to say with God’s messengers through the ages, “Do not fear, for the Lord is with you.” That message, in turn, gives us the strength and courage not to ignore or flea the very real hardships of our life in this world, but to join ourselves to them, throwing ourselves into the struggle for peace, justice, and equity for all, trusting that because God has promised to save the world, we can do our part in the corner in which we find ourselves.
It was no accident that my inauguration this past weekend was placed amid the community’s celebration of Advent Vespers. The occasion was meant to be a community event, as we together look ahead in hope. We at LTSP have had — and still have! — our share of challenges, but we face them trusting in the hope and courage granted by God’s promise to guide us toward a future God has already prepared. More than that, we are committed to living as a community of hope for the neighborhood and city in which we planted, for the surrounding regions we call home, and in the larger Church that we serve. And most of all, we are committed to raising up leaders who themselves are beacons of hope and who fashion and nurture communities that bear witness to the hope that is ours in Christ.
You, too, are called to be a bearer and beacon of hope, and as you embrace that calling I hope you will see the LTSP community as your partner and champion. God has called us together toward a bright future, and while at times it may be difficult to see the road forward amid the dispersing shadows of night, yet God still calls us to follow, not always knowing where we go but confident that God is leading us. And so while I bid you a blessed Christmas wherever you may be, I also pray that you enjoyed a hope-filled Advent that you may discover ever greater resources to give voice to the hope that we steward on behalf of this world God loves so much.
Yours in Christ,