Pastor’s Pen

Reed Stockman PixThe church calendar begins a new year with the first Sunday in Advent. Advent must be distinguished from Christmas season. Traditionally, Advent has done double duty, drawing together both the first and last comings of Christ. But these multiple layers are often hard to hold together during the season — thematically, theologically, liturgically, and psychologically. By celebrating “Christ the King Sunday” at the end of the church year, we are able to simplify and streamline the meaning of Advent.

The final coming is still a thread in the meaning of Advent, but the season as a whole focuses on the church’s expectations and longings in a wide variety of ways. Advent is a time of hoping, expecting, and preparing. It’s preparation for a party, not the party itself. We are preparing to meet our God. There is even an element of penitence and repentance, and Advent is often linked to Lent.

What should we emphasize during Advent? Just as the old covenant saints looked forward to Christ’s first coming, so we look forward to his final coming. But Christ “comes” to us in other ways too. He comes within history every time the Word is preached and the sacraments celebrated. He comes to us to bless, chastise, and curse, as is fitting. He comes in grace and in wrath all throughout history, shaking up the kingdoms of this world in order to usher in his kingdom more fully. He came in 30 AD as the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost (Jn. 14:18). He came in 70 AD to judge apostate Israel and destroy the last vestiges of the old covenant system (e.g., the temple and priesthood; cf. Mt. 24). And he still comes through his Spirit and through historical judgments, to fulfill his purposes. All of these “comings” will culminate with his final bodily coming to wrap up history. Thus, Advent is a reminder of all the ways and times in which Christ comes to his people — and how important it is for us to live in light of these various “comings.”

One question to ask yourself throughout Advent is: Am I ready to meet Christ? But more than anything, Advent is a season of hope. This is because the Christian life is a life of hope. We are saved in hope, and we live by hope. Hope reminds us that while God has already blessed us abundantly, there is more still to come — thus we must wait patiently and obediently. Advent hymns, like “Comfort, Comfort, These My People,” “O Come, O Come Emmanuel,” and “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” train us in the virtue of hope. They remind us that God’s people have always had to wait patiently for the promises to come to fulfillment. And so, it is with us.

Of course, as we have done in the past, as we move into Advent, we will “break the rules” and sing a few Christmas songs before Dec. 25. But it’s helpful to keep in mind the flow of the seasons. The church calendar tells a story; Advent is something of a prologue (or prelude) to that story. It hints at and foreshadows what is to come — including the final consummation of the story — but it also prepares us to celebrate the glories of the opening chapter of that story with the birth of the Savior in the manger. If we move into Christmas without first observing Advent, we are in danger of forgetting that Christ’s birth had a context. Christ’s entered the world because the Father promised long beforehand to send his Son and had worked through Israel’s long and winding history to prepare the way for his entrance into the world.

Your brother in Christ, Pastor Reed Stockman

 

In His service,

Pastor Reed Stockman

 Every Member Visits

 Members will be receiving phone calls from the Elders (Gene Pasche, Dean Meichsner or Jason Miller) to set up a time for Pastor & an Elder to stop by your home for a short visit.

If you ware in need of Pastoral care outside of office hours Pastor Stockman can be reached at 320-585-5913 or his cell phone 319-480-8927.