Advent is here! That means we begin the waiting. Every year I try to take a bit of a different approach to this season, and this year is no different. We have spent time with the gospel of Luke, the gospel of Matthew, Isaiah, John the Baptist and Mary the mother of Jesus in the past years. This year we will be looking to the prophets and what they have to teach us about preparing ourselves for the coming of the Christ Child.
You all know that we have four Sundays of advent and that we often have a word or a theme for each one. The traditional themes are Hope, Peace, Joy and Love, but we have also done advent by focusing on different characters in the nativity each week prophets, the holy family, shepherds and angels and magi. This year I wanted to go a very different direction, so I decided we would focus on the Hebrew Bible passages, which this year all happen to be from the prophets. Now in Christian tradition, the prophetic passages chosen have all been understood as pointing in the direction of Jesus Christ. Often times that has come to mean that they were predictive of his coming. I am not a terribly big fan of that approach, as I am not certain that is always a good use of scripture to look back at it and proclaim that it was predicting the future. All too often, this approach is used to justify all sorts of absurdities and proclaim this or that. How many times was the world supposed to end in the last 20 years according to scripture? I just worry about doing violence to the text and with the text when we start proclaiming that it is predicting something.
However, as I closely read each of these passages, I did see another way in which these passages pointed to the person of Jesus. Each of these passages talk at great length about important values in the Hebrew tradition. Specifically, they each use words that are particularly important to understanding who Jesus Christ is to us. So this year, that is what we will do—focus on concepts from the Hebrew Bible that will help us go deeper into who this coming Christ Child is. Each prophet seemed to have a particular word or concept that rose to the surface. For Jeremiah (this week) the word “Righteousness” was important. For Malachi next week the word “Purity,” was of particular import (week 2). In week three, Zephaniah speaks of Joy, rejoicing and singing (the week that our kiddos will be leading us in worship!). And finally, in week 4 of advent Micah speaks of Peace.
Given these focuses from the prophets, we will be doing advent a little differently this year (surprise, surprise, Covenant doing things differently!). I think this has the potential to be deeply meaningful and get us thinking a little differently about what it is we are preparing for—not just another Christmas, but God’s promise of a coming time of Righteousness, Purity, Rejoicing and Peace. The prophets have much to teach us, but they also challenge us to reflect upon the ways in which we have not always lived into God’s vision of who we could be. The prophets also remind us that even when we have not been faithful to God, we continue to be receivers of God’s grace until we can better learn to live out God’s promise.
So join us this season in going deeper into what this season is about and what our hope for God’s coming kingdom looks like!