Hey folks - here's a great link to advent reflections on Christine Sine's blog - well worth a look. Christine is a remarkable follower of Jesus and is passionate about issues of justice and social concern. I count it a privilege to commendt the site and Christine's ministry to you.
What does 'Advent' have to do with Climate Change? To put it another way and to borrow an analogy from a Church Father - what does Copenhagen have to do with Jersualem? To understand the connection, we need to first understand Advent.
Advent is no longer noticed - let alone observed! The season of longing, yearning and repentance has been replaced by an ever earlier marketting strategy for Christmas. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Christmas and look forward to it every year - but I also love advent. I don't like Christmas beginning at the end of October, though! I don;t think we have banished advent just because of commercialism, though - I think Christians have become so secularised that we have abandoned the challenge of advent.
This isn't the fault of tele-evangelists and pedlers of cheap, easy religion and a 'come to Jesus and He'll do whatever you want, whenever you need Him to' mentality. I don't want to have a 'pop' at the gifts and the lights and the family feel of Christmas - and I don't want to sound like a charismatic 'scrouge' bemoaning the society I am part of. Far from it - I thinl the reason we have largely ditched advent is because we don't understand it anymore.
What is Advent?
Some clues might be found in one of the figures that is associated with it - John the Baptist. 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand' he thunders (Matthew 3:2). Mark says John 'appeared' in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance and forgiveness of sins. when John was thrown in jail, Jesus also is noted this way, 'From that time on Jesus began to preach, saying, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand' (Matthew 4:17). Jesus also told his disciples to preach the same thing.
Advent, it seems to me, is much more about reflection and repentance and vulnerability than Christmas. Advent is about renewal and honesty in and about ourselves, in the light of Christ's promised return. But we shouldn't turn 'repentance' of John's sort into a purely private matter - it's about a whole creation being brought back into right relationship with and right order before God. John is clear about the reason for this repentance - God's Kingdom is coming, God is sorting things out (eschatology for those who want a big word before supper!) John is like an old fashioned watchman warning people, princes and principalities and powers that the coming of the Lamb of God signifies the beginning of the end for a crumbling order of selfishness, greed and pride. He is giving notice of war with sin - personal, communal and corporate.
Advent, therefore, is perhaps one of the most political seasons of the Christian year - and this year the Copenhagen Summit on climate change happens right in the middle of it.
Our faliure to understand this season is connected with our lack of understanding of the connection between the First Coming of Christ and the Second Advent. Persistent quietism of pastors, preachers an teachers about the Second Coming has led to a detached and hostile approach to the world and our place in it. We have departed from the biblical narrative of a redeemed and renewed earth which will be finalised and completed by Christ at His return but was begun when He first came - leaving us the exciting role of being 'inbetweeners' - people who live in the glorious rays of the first coming and the clear hope of the second with the commission to be kingdom bringers. Instead, we like to think of a departure, a leaving behind the rotten world and its mess and living somewhere 'out there' free from all responsibility of care for the planet. Of course such simplistic theology is amplified through teh speakers of series such as 'Left Behind' novels and preachers whose passion is to pinpoint a date for departure rather than remind us of the responsibility to serve, invest and spend ourselves for the people around us and the planet which God has entrusted to us. Perhaps the greatest criticism of much of the church in the 20th and 21st century will be the absolute failure of most of us to take our responsibilities for the planet and its people seriously enough. The one God called to be stewards have become squanderers.
As a result, we have allowed the powerful influence of the promised return of Christ to be hijacked by quacks, astrologers, and weird cults and theories (some within the 'church). The connection between the two advents needs to be re-discovered - and in doing so we re-discover something of our own calling and direction.
In the comings of Jesus (first and second) the nations, principalities and powers and judged - and defeated, by God's Word to us. In Christ's lordship all of the earth and all of the heavens and everything else is rendered accountable. A response from us to the state of the world is not requested by Christ - the advents demand it. To quote John 'bear fruit that befit repentance.'
Another key figure in Advent is Mary. Her words are even more political than John
He has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted those of low degree; He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away enpty (Luke 1:52-54)
Climate change is largely man made and its injustice means that the squandering of the rich and powerful has forced the poor and dispossessed to suffer even more. We are answerable to the Returning King for this travesty and complete reversal of the purpose and message of the coming of Christ - and He will ask us why we did not respond to His Word.
In the first advent, Christ the Lord comes into the world, in the next advent, Christ the Lord comes as Judge of all the world, its thrones, powers, kings, prime ministers, politicans, pretenders, sovereigns, dominions, principalities, authorities, presidencies, regimes, scientists, philosophers and people. What a travesty if we, His people, end up in the place where we ignore His teaching on our responsibilities. He comes as the God of creation - but He also comes as the God of History - the God who sees and knows all things.
This is what our society (and perhaps even we as His followers) re-act against - yet it is the hope that should keep us going and hold light before us as the world 'melts' - but we must remember that we live between two advents.
God help us to be sensible in Copenhagen and view it in the glaring light not only of Bethlehem, where Your Son was born, but also Jersualem, where He died and one day will stand again.
Hi everyone. I have put a YOUTUBE clip at the bottom of this entry that I'd love you to watch - but here's why.
Advent is a season of longing. It's a time of the year for me, as a follower of Jesus, to think about the promises of God and His work in my life - and His assurances to me. It is also a period when I can reflect on all that has gone on in my own journey with God and allow space and time for reflection, repentance and renewal.
This morning, I stood in the midst of the frost and the cold and simply remembered. Beneath the surface of the cold, hard ground around me, life remained strong and hidden. The plants and trees around me have shed their leaves, casting off the garments of last summer and focussing their energies and strength on deepening their roots and sucking up the energy and nutrients they need from the earth. Advent is like that for me, I think. What of last year has to be discarded? What words and actions need to be allowed to whiter and fall away, like leaves falling lifeless from the branches of trees? What can I learn from last year - what nutrients do I need to soak into my life so that I might be more effective in my service of Christ - and perhaps most importantly, I can become more like Him? Old attitudes and assumptions that need to be changed - areas of my theology that need to grow more, reach out more, broaden? I am now convinced that if my theology has not changed then I have not grown.
But advent is also a season of longing - yearning. It's a time for me when, full of hope and expectation of God I allow the deep longing of my spirit to reach out to God in a new way. I am not talking about the kind of longing that we often think of as 'normal'. This isn't like the 'longing' for a holiday or the 'longing' to have something new in my home, or a strong desire to do something for the first time, or visit the theatre or have a meal in a certain restaurant. No - I mean much more than that. I'm talking about the longing, the deep-seated yearning that knows deep within that there is more of God to see and understand and experience. It's like a thirst in the desert, or the desperation for air you feel when you have been swimming under water for too long. A deep, primal ache for more of life, more of reality, more of God to be known and felt and encountered. I have had enough of theologies that box God into cerebral cells or confine him to purely emotional cul-de-sacs. I don't want a relationship with God that looks disdaingly on experience. Nor do I want a theology that is driven by emotion and feelings and treats thinking and reflection like some kind of nasty virus that best belongs in the hankerchief of humanism and philosophy. It is not so much that I simply 'want' God - I think each Advent brings me to a deeper realisation that without Him, I cannot live.
My longing is for life beyond existence, for depth beyond veneer, for hope beyond circumstances and for a spirituality that goes way beyond superficial platitudes or confessions or liturgies or choruses or tongue-speaking. My yearning is for a fresh revelation of the God in whose hands my very breath is. I want to stand on a cold morning, with the frost carresing the ground and the cold air invading my lungs and I want to be able to put my head back and close my eyes and know beyond knowing that the reality of the presence and power of God is every bit as real as the air I breathe and the ground I stand on. I want my faith to deepen and grow and my intimacy to be more intimate. I want my commitment to good works to extend beyond obligation and my engagement in worship to reach into the darkest recesses of my mind and heart and experience and shed new light on dark corners. I want my prayers to flow out of a heart that yearns to give God more praise and a more central place in my heart. I want to pull down altars that have been built where only God's throne should sit. I want my circumstances to be submitted to my faith that God is real, His presence is here and his commitment to me never changes. I want advent to be a time when the deep-seated cry of desperation inside me is released with emotion and power and intensity and is allowed to break through all the 'stuff' that so often keeps it in its place. I want the cry 'I love you Lord' to be from the very core of my being and I want it to fracture my fortitude, shatter my self-centredness and break my beligerence. I want advent to be a time of risk-taking, dangerous faith when I see again that God can do anything, anywhere with anyone. I want advent to help me see the cloud the size of a man's hand in my life and the lives of my friends that reminds me that God has not finished with me or with them yet. I want advent to be a fresh dawning of hope, a new and dazzling day for the Kingdom, a pulling down of the powers of darkness and continual firework of faith. I want advent to set the tinsel ablaze with a passion for holiness, I want it to invade unhelpful divides between the 'secular' and 'sacred'. I want it to upset my applecart, to push me into the centre of the will of God and drag me, even if it is kicking and screaming, away from my comfort and into a place of absolute dependence on God. I want to go further, reach deeper, understand more, experience more genuinely, reflect more clearly, the grace and wonder and majesty of God. I want to sing 'O Come, O Come, Emmanue' not just with my voice, but with my whole life and heart and soul and spirit. I want to run into an ocean of God and swim in Him, completely dependent upon His grace and power and love. I don't care what people think. I don't care who mocks me. I want to close my ears to the conservative critics who tell me I to hold things in balance. I don't want to be 'reserved'! I don't want to hold anything back. I don't want to be polite about my love for God. I want to surrender more, to give more, to love more deeply, to rejoice more fully, to praise more passionately, to live more outrageously for Him.
Joel Houston captures it in 'I'll stand' - enjoy
You stood before creation Forever within Your hand You spoke all life into motion My soul now to stand
You stood before my failure And carried the cross for my shame My sin weighed upon Your shoulders My soul now to stand
So what can I say And what can I do But offer this heart O God Completely to You So I'll walk upon salvation Your Spirit alive in me My life to declare Your promise My soul now to stand So what can I say And what can I do But offer this heart O God Completely to You So I'll stand With arms high and heart abandoned In awe of the One who gave it all I'll stand My soul Lord to You surrendered All I am is Yours