Family of faith,
In just a few short weeks, we will begin our Advent journey together. For us at Covenant UMC, Advent will start this year on November 26th. We will spend four weeks waiting, anticipating, and preparing ourselves for the advent (coming) of Christ Jesus, born among us on Christmas.
The season of Advent marks the start of the Christian calendar’s year, not the end. This is because as followers of Jesus, we keep time differently. The lectionary calendar tells the story of Jesus’ life, again and again. Just as the seasons return each year, and just as we tell the same family stories at our feasts, we tell each other the “old, old story” each and every year not because we forget the story. We tell these stories because we get off track and center other things in our lives. We forget not the details, but the meaning. We forget too easily what it means to live according to Christ’s Kin-dom instead of in a default-mode. We forget too easily that being a disciple of Jesus invites us to a life of sacrificial love instead of self-reliance.
We so easily forget what it looks like for Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to have a claim on our lives—that we are to live in manger-shaped and cross-shaped ways.
So we return every year to this season of Advent, and we wait.
We practice “waiting” for Christ’s birth at the start of each “church year”, which mirrors our waiting for the return of Jesus to restore and heal all things, people, and places. We pull back from and reject instant-gratification. We wait. We long. We remember that we are waiting and longing for Jesus to come again.
This year, our theme for Advent will be The Gift of Being Present. One of the tag lines for this series is, “beyond the wrappings and bows lies an emptiness, a loneliness.” It is a deeply troubling reality that we are very lonely as a society. I saw the news that New York City has created a city position to address this phenomenon. This is a trend not limited to NYC, however.
The holidays are an incredible time of community and connection, but for folks who are lonely or who are struggling with mental health or who are grieving or who are just experiencing the world’s sorrows a bit more poignantly right now, the holidays can make that loneliness feel even heavier.
The truth that we’ve all had to grapple with in the aftermath of a global pandemic and all that has come with it, is that we need each other. We need community. We need connection. God has made us for it.
So through the season of Advent, we are going to be practicing this together. We are going to play at and practice being present together, because that is how we address loneliness, emptiness, and despair. To quote our study, “We will discover that our own presence is a present to others — and this is better than any gift money can buy.” This Advent, we will talk about these things out in the open, so that we all can be reminded that we aren’t alone.
We have sometimes been told or taught that we can’t bring that sense of longing before God, but just the opposite is true. When we are gathered in worship together, this is when we can bring the truth of who we are and be held by the Spirit and our community.
My hope for this Advent season is that you don’t feel the need to be shiny or put together. So if you need to show up for worship in your pajamas because that is all you can do right now, or if the gift you give this year is asking for anti-depressants from your doctor, of if you need to sing the carols as loudly as you can, this Advent is for you. If you are grieving what or who you’ve lost, or even just the ideas you had about yourself, this Advent is for you. Whether you join us online or in-person, whether you worship in Spokane or around the globe, this Advent is for you.
Here’s some important dates for this Advent and Christmas Season:
November 26th at 9:30a—Advent begins for us!
December 3rd at 6p—The Annual Christmas Tree Lighting. We will be announcing more information about this event in the newsletter and on Sunday.
December 24th—Christmas Eve Services at 9:30a & 4p. The service will be the same at both times, but you’re invited to join either or both. The livestream and recording will only be up from the 9:30am service.
December 31st—Wesleyan Covenant Renewal Service at 9:30a. This type of service is a part of our Methodist heritage. It typically takes place at the the start of the New Year and is a service in which we renew our covenant with God and each other. We recenter our lives on the Good News that Jesus brings.
In the New Year!—We will be offering a small group study on the themes that we will be focusing on throughout Advent, to keep growing in our practice of presence.