The Liturgical Calendar teaches and reminds us about the life and works of Jesus Christ. It outlines opportunities for us to fellowship, celebrate, work and grow. By fellowship I mean for example an Advent Breakfast. By celebrate, I mean like a Christmas Party. To work, I mean like to be intentional by planning & organizing ministry events designed to bring people into a closer relationship with God and God's church. And, by grow I mean that if we actually take these opportunities such as Advent, Lent, Pentecost and such to meditate, process, internalize and respond we could actually grow spiritually.
So, this year I decided to not allow another Advent to go by without making it meaningful and life changing for me and my church. I prepared in advance by re-reading the meaning, purpose and significance of the season. I understood that it was a new beginning and start of the Christian Year but the question was what did that have to do with me? How could it be more than just lighting some candles and reading some litanies? What could I do to make this an Advent that we all would remember?
Yes, I made sure that we had the wreath and appropriate candles. I selected responsive readings that I thought were meaningful and relevant. I rearranged the worship program to incorporate more congregational involvement and to coordinate with the Advent themes: hope, love, joy and peace. Yet the main thing that I did differently is wrestle with the Advent focus words. I wrestled for example with peace because of the times that we are living in and the condition that our world is in today. I wrestled for example with love because for once I wanted to consider other people's feelings and empathize with those who just aren't feeling all Advent and stuff. I decided to not go the churchy route on the word joy but talk about the problems that I've had in the past for example with hope. I hoped that by doing this I could reach a different audience. I figured if Jesus is the Reason and the Answer and all that, then why don't we talk about the problem, the problems--the problems that we are facing right now-our issues. Let's in our Kevin Hart voice, consider why we really need to embrace and internalize Advent right now in this Trump era and why Jesus is such good news.
What's ironic about my approach to preaching in this season is that the more I wrestled with these Advent focus words the more comfortable I became with being honest to myself and with my congregation. The more I processed these words, the more willing I had become to preach the Gospel with my authentic voice and to tell my testimony like it is, like it happened, like I felt it. I was determined to preach it like I felt it and I haven't been holding back. I said, "Here's my problem with hope...." The next Sunday I got up and said, "Here's my problem with love...." And, when I told them some of my life experiences like that time when I jumped in front of my brother with my hands up because he was being held at gun point by a side girlfriend who had come to our house with pain in her heart and tears in her eyes. I don't know what I was thinking! I just kept saying, "Please don't shoot my brother, put that gun down. Please don't shoot my brother."
Yeah, this Advent Season has been real different for me. I'm sure its been different for my congregation too. I can feel them feeling me. I can hear them saying, Amen. And, I can see growth and God moving. But most of all, I can close with my hoop on why Jesus is the Answer. Honestly, I've had some problems with hope, love, joy and peace. But the Advent message is Come! And we are waiting with expectation for the coming of our Savior. Our answer.