Advent: Love

Kris MacQueen, Dec 18, 2020, 5:19 AM
Kris MacQueen National Catalyst of Vineyard Creative
Copy of The Gift of Advent .png

Love has come. Love is coming.

Here we are, embarking on the final movement of the Advent season, the fourth candle. This final beacon, lit in the last watch of the night, waits for the break of dawn. It completes the circle of light and awaits the lighting of the central candle, the Christ candle.  And so, the stage is set. The voices of the ancient prophets rest and wait.

Of course, the practices and traditions of Advent are simply metaphors. But the story they dramatize is both a re-enactment of what has been and a prophetic sign pointing towards what is yet to come. Perhaps most powerfully of all the liturgical seasons, Advent "remembers forward", to borrow a phrase from writer James K.A. Smith.

Advent asks us to recall the story and the setting of Christ's birth. It sets the stage for our Christmas-tide. But it doesn't simply ask us to remember. It also asks us to anticipate. Advent requires us to look forward, and in costly ways. It tethers our hope, peace, joy and even our deepest love to something both here and yet coming: Christ among us, returned.

The meagre light of four simple candles arranged around a wreath anticipates the light of Christ described in the 21st chapter of Revelation, when "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp." Advent is modest in its adornments but bold in its promises.

And Advent, as we've already widely reflected this season, is well suited to these times. Advent is an "in between time". It is uncomfortably at ease with words like exile, darkness, waiting, longing, labour, suffering. But like candles shrouded in darkness, Advent shines with these words: hope, peace, joy, love. It offers these not as one-time inoculations, shots in the arm that provide lifetime immunity from pain, suffering and grief. Rather, they radiate as promises that are a slow drip, a steady provision. Perhaps this is part of what the Scriptures allude to when they speak of the work of the Spirit as a foretaste of what's to come. Hope, Peace, Joy, even Love... simply foretastes leading us forward.

And so, approaching the end of this most complicated year, we step into this final Advent week with eyes and hearts fixed on the promise of Emmanuel, God with us."